Red Planet previously reported that Evoware, an Indonesian startup, has developed biodegradable, edible packaging made from seaweed. This is in response to the country’s massive plastic pollution problem. On the other side of the world, in London, UK, another startup (Skipping Rocks Lab) has also created a form of seaweed-based packaging in order to replace plastic. The company is part of the Climate KIC startup acceleration program founded by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) and the team of scientists is based in Imperial College London.
The startup has also been garnering a lot of attention and accolades for its innovative, sustainable product. Skipping Rocks Lab was awarded the 2014 Lexus Design Award, the 2014 World Technology Award (environment), the 2015 SEA Award, and the 2016 UK Energy Globe Award.
The ever-growing problem of plastic pollution
The severity of the global plastic pollution problem was highlighted in February when a young sperm whale (an endangered species) washed up on a beach in southeastern Spain. Scientists wanted to figure out the cause of the whale’s death, so they sliced into its blubber. And what they discovered was 64 pounds of plastic in its stomach and intestines. The plastic caused a fatal infection.
This is not an isolated incident. Scientists all over the world continually find animals that have been killed by either ingesting – or getting entangled in – plastic. 90% of seabirds have plastic in their bellies. The situation is also set to worsen, quite drastically. It is estimated that the amount of plastic that ends up in the oceans every year (19 billion pounds) will double by 2025. This will kill more animals, destroy coral reefs, damage human health (due to microplastics), create more dead zones where nothing can live, harm biodiversity, and affect ecosystems. The New Republic stresses:
But banning straws—or plastic bags, or take-out containers—is not enough to solve the scourge of ocean plastics. In fact, no single country can make a significant enough impact to solve it before some of the impacts become irreversible. Like human-caused climate change, ocean plastic pollution is a huge and growing problem that demands a similarly ambitious solution. That’s why it should be approached in the same way: with an international agreement that imposes binding pollution reduction targets for every country, relative to their contribution to the problem. In other words, the plastics crisis needs its own Paris climate accord—and soon.
What we need is a multileveled approach that utilises top-down intergovernmental policy, grassroots action, radical lifestyle change, and sustainable solutions from more and more companies. Skipping Rocks Lab has devised a product – like that of Evoware’s – that needs to be commercially widespread and a viable replacement for plastic.
Skipping Rocks Lab’s edible packaging
The startup’s edible blob-like container is called Ooho! and, as Fast Company describes, it is:
A compound made from brown algae and calcium chloride creates a gel around the water…While the package is being formed, the water is frozen as ice, making it possible to create a bigger sphere and keeping the ingredients in the membrane and out of the water.
The startup believes that Ooho! “will revolutionise the water-on-the-go market.” It adds:
The spherical flexible packaging can also be used for other liquids including water, soft drinks, spirits and cosmetics, and our proprietary material is actually cheaper than plastic.
In fact, the product is extremely inexpensive, as it costs only $0.02 USD to make. Skipping Rocks Lab aims to become the leading global producer of seaweed-based packaging and is committed to preventing plastic bottles from entering the oceans.
About the author: Sam Woolfe @samwoolfe
Sam is a writer who is especially interested in space exploration, sustainability, tech, agriculture, and nutrition.