Algae-Based Bottle Biodegrades When Empty

WaterBottleNearly half of the plastic used globally is used just one time, then thrown away.  A staggering amount of plastic never makes it to a recycling plant, and is tossed carelessly on the ground or ends up in a landfill.  By now, most of us are aware that a lot of this plastic waste finds it’s way into our waterways, eventually making it’s way to one of the ocean’s plastic gyres.  The biggest gyre is in the Pacific Ocean, and it is a huge swirling disgusting collection of plastic pieces that is roughly the size of Texas.

One young man has been making a strong effort to clean up the world’s oceans with his invention (click here for an article on Boyan Slat and his Great Ocean Cleanup), but perhaps it is time we start being a bit more proactive instead of reactive.  We indeed need to continue cleaning up our mess, but we need to slow down and eventually stop this mess from continuing to grow.

Product design student Ari Jónsson from Iceland Academy of the Arts is currently working on biodegradable drinking bottle made from an algae based material.  While trying to find a biodegradable substitute for plastic water bottles, Ari happened on a powdered form of agar, which is a substance that is made from algae.  When agar and water are mixed together, the result is a jelly-like material that can be placed in a mold and shaped to whichever specifications you require.  When he experimented with making a water bottle, he discovered that the algae based bottle will maintain it’s form and structure until bottle is drained.

WaterBottle2What is interesting is about this discovery is that the bottle will not even hold it’s shape without being filled by water.  As soon as the bottle is empty, the shape begins to shrivel and begin decomposition.  The water within the bottle is indeed safe to drink, although it may absorb a bit of a salty taste from the bottle itself.  If you felt inclined to do so, you could even eat the bottle when it is empty.  I don’t know why you would want to do that though, the designer compared the taste to a “seaweed Jello.”

At this point, this bottle is just a concept that still requires quite a bit of fine tuning and testing before being implemented.  The bottle itself is still facing some serious design challenges, such as making a stronger structure that will not tear or sustain damage so easily.  Even so, this is a beautiful idea with potential to solve a problem that we are now becoming desperate to tackle.  At the very least, it is a step in the right direction.

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