Some can't live without plastic, but SCOBY-doo. Student invents new packaging that grows like vegetables and is edible

Róża says she work with nature by rethinking old food conservation techniques to create renewable packaging solutions that won't litter the environment but enrichen it. Róża Janusz/Scoby Packaging

A Polish design student has come up with a revolutionary way to dispose of plastic wrapping - with self-growing, edible packaging.

SCOBY Living Packages is the brainchild of Róża Janusz and looks set to become one of the best natural alternatives to plastic.

Short for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, SCOBY is a thin biocellulose membrane for packing dry or semi-dry food products, such as seeds, nuts, herbs or salads.

Róża told TFN: “It is a material woven by microorganisms. It has many beneficial properties, such as creating an oxygen barrier. Together with low pH it prevents food from expiring.

“By controlling the growth of SCOBY, we can get different types of disposable and compostable packaging. By balancing the process it can be as thin as foil or thicker for plates and other catering materials.”

Packaging influences the taste and quality of the food we eat. Is safe, has a neutral taste and prevents products from wasting.Róża Janusz/Scoby Packaging


Although using biological tissue to package goods is not a new thing, Róża’s material is a fully vegetarian wrapping.

SCOBY is produced on vertical farms through fermentation. Bacteria and yeast are fed with extracts from agricultural waste and after a time a membrane is created in their container.

Róża explained: “The growing process lasts about two weeks and requires only the temperatures of 23. It does not require light or the Sun, or any special conditions, such as humidity. It has a future, since the production can be done underground, in buildings, in the cities.”

Róża is currently working on the automatisation of SCOBY production, so that it could be integrated with the farming industry, with the goal of large-scale use and replacing harmful plastic.

Róża Janusz studied at the Poznań-based School of Form in Industrial Design. SCOBY is her graduate project.

Packaging could be easily integrated into the farming industry – growing alongside the produce, that will be wrapped in it.Róża Janusz/Scoby Packaging


She said: “I was inspired by the growing materials themselves. I started to study them and bioplastics, to see in which areas of life and production they can be used. The production process interests me the most.

“It is something between making and growing. I think the factories of the future are starting to look like farms of today.”

SCOBY has gained considerable recognition all over the world, due to its properties and ecological character.

A perfect example of the zero waste philosophy, Róża was invited to present it at several international events, such as Dutch Design Week, Designblok in Prague, London Design Festival Waste Streams and even the UN Climate Summit in Katowice.