03/11/2009 03:48 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Unexpected Green Hazard: When Your Cat Binges on the Edible Packaging

It is standard procedure for my three-legged cat Baby to make a flying leap into any box that makes the premises (and he is not alone, as proves). He is also unabashedly an over-eater, binging at every possible opportunity....and then...purging to retain his svelte figure. About five minutes passed before I realized he had disappeared into the Vente Privee box and was happily chowing down on the popcorn-like packaging material, which was biodegradable and apparently, edible. So what exactly is this stuff slipping into boxes?

cat box photo

Cat photo courtesy of

Well, it smells like corn and tastes like puffed corn cereal (we don't recommend eating it). According to Free Patents Online, these biodegradable and edible composites are made of:

a mixture comprising fiber mixed with a non-petroleum based, biodegradable adhesive formed by modifying a starch, protein, or protein-rich flour. The mixture has a moisture content of less than about 20% by weight, based upon the total weight of the mixture taken as 100% by weight. The mixture is then molded at pressures of from about 150-600 psi and temperatures of from about 150-500 degrees Fahrenheit to yield a final composite having a compressive strength of at least about 5 MPa. Preferred fibers include those derived from straw, corn stalks, sorghum stalks, soybean hulls, and peanut hulls. Preferred modifiers include NaOH, urea sodium dodecyl sulfate, sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate, and guanidine hydrochloride.

edible packaging photo

The packaging shipped to me.

New technology has also made biodegradable packaging slimmer and water resistant, a perk for many manufacturers. So why is this a good thing? Packaging is one of the most wasteful and unnecessary components of our modern day life. When you pull out layer upon layer of bubble wrap all to reveal a single book, you are just the end of a long energy- and resource-rich journey. According to (PDF), packaging represents about 65 percent of household trash.

Luckily, the incident neither turned Baby off boxes, nor influenced his digestive system.

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