Vanilla Ice Cream from Recycled Plastic? Still Waiting for Approval


Ice cream with vanilla flavoring sourced from recycled plastic doesn’t sound very appetizing to me, but I must give credit to Eleonora Ortolani, a Central Saint Martins Design School student in the UK for her forward thinking and desire to make better use of recycled material.

“If I tell you there’s an ingredient in that ice cream coming from plastic waste, you’re going to be completely disgusted by it,” said Ortolani.  “But then once you understand that basically everything is part of the same ecosystem and we can even consider plastic part of the same ecosystem, then it makes total sense.  We drastically have to change the way we eat and the way we perceive food. I’m not saying we have to look at the future of food as everything being synthetic or super-processed, but it’s just a matter of compromise for me.”

The idea to use a small amount of plastic to make flavoring for ice cream came as part of Eleonora’s final year project.  To her knowledge, this was something no one else had tried and she named her project “Guilty Flavours.”  Eleonora was frustrated because recycled plastic was generally made into products that could not be recycled further (having been mixed with other materials and resin).  When she learned of a species of worm that could digest plastic bags, she wondered if humans could somehow eat plastic, digest, and eliminate it for good.

Struggling to find someone who would work with her on this concept, she finally found food scientist and researcher Joanna Sadler from the University of Edinburgh who helped her synthesize synthetic vanillin from plastic. 

If you’re shopping for spices in the supermarket, you’ve no doubt seen both pure vanilla and imitation vanilla flavoring.  Pure vanilla extract contains natural vanillin, but imitation vanilla is made from synthetic vanillin and is a much cheaper alternative.  While natural vanilla flavor contains hundreds of flavor compounds beside vanillin, imitation vanilla gets its flavor only from synthetic vanillin.

Since imitation vanilla is produced from the same raw material as plastic crude oil, Eleonora and Sadler reasoned that all they needed “was an enzyme to break down the super strong bonds between the molecules in the structure of plastic and another one to synthesize these molecules into vanillin. Ortolani explained that “in the moment the first enzymes break the chain, it’s not plastic anymore, it’s not a polymer anymore. It’s monomers.  It’s elements.  Microplastic looks like it’s a molecule, but it’s actually a very tiny bit of plastic.” 

Although the project is considered a success, you won’t find this vanilla ice cream in the supermarket – yet. Things are on hold until it is deemed safe for human consumption.  The molecular structure is identical to that of vanillin, and it smells like vanillin but because it is considered a completely new ingredient it must be further tested by food safety groups.  For now, the first ice cream flavored with plastic-synthesized vanillin is currently safely locked in a freezer at Central Saint Martins, UK awaiting its entry into the marketplace.

Lily Noon

Source: This Vanilla Ice Cream is Made With Recycled Plastic and It’s Probably Safe to Eat by Spooky, October 2, 2023,

再生プラスチックを原料とするバニラ香料を使用したアイスクリームというのは、どうにもおいしそうに聞こえませんが、これを開発した人を称賛せずにはいられません。ロンドン芸術大学セントラル・セイント・マーチンズ・カレッジの学生、Eleonora Ortolaniさんには、再生原料をもっと有効活用したいという思いと型破りな発想がありました。


写真:Dovile Ramoskaite/Unsplash

少量のプラスチックを使用してアイスクリームの香料を作るというアイデアは、Eleonoraさんが卒業プロジェクトで手がけた研究でした。彼女の知るかぎり、これまでに誰も試みたことのない研究です。彼女はこのプロジェクトを「Guilty Flavours」と名付けました。再生プラスチックを使用した製品が、たいていはその後のリサイクルに適さない製品である(他の原材料や樹脂と混合されている)ことに、以前から不満を感じていたそうです。そして、プラスチックの袋を消化できる虫がいるという話を聞いた時に、人間もプラスチックを食べて消化し、永久除去に役立つことができないものかと考え始めました。

このコンセプトに協力してくれる人はなかなか見つかりませんでしたが、最終的にエジンバラ大学の食品科学研究者、Joanna Sadler氏がプラスチックから人工バニラを合成する過程を手伝ってくれました。




Lily Noon


出典:「This Vanilla Ice Cream is Made With Recycled Plastic and It’s Probably Safe to Eat」(再生プラスチックを使用したバニラアイスクリーム、おそらくは食べて安全)」、著:Spooky、2023年10月2日、


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