Living in a city where tap water isn’t so clean, NYU Shanghai student body probably disposes of hundreds of plastic water bottles every single day. According to South China Morning Post, of the 8 million tonnes of plastic that end up in oceans every year, 3.5 million tonnes of that comes directly from cities in mainland China. This is precisely why UK-based Climate-KIC startup’s Ooho! project is so spectacular. Get this: edible water bottles.
Skipping Rocks Labs has created a liquid packaging so clean and so natural you can actually eat it. Of course you don’t have to eat it, but it is fully edible. Made with calcium chloride (E-509) and an actual seaweed product (a derivative of brown algae called sodium alginate; E-401), these clear capsules can form a double glutinous layer around any amount of water. Its creators were inspired by nature’s way of encapsulating liquids, specifically the balanced formations of lipids and membranes around a singular water drop, and combined this research with culinary techniques of spherification to produce an alternative to plastic bottles. This creative form of packaging ensures a totally hygienic interior, and its exterior is so biodegradable that its inventors call it “water you can eat.”
The problem with regular plastic water bottles is that plastic waste has no recycling value. Plastic wastes are compressed and then either burned directly or dumped into waterways that eventually lead to and clog up oceans, thus polluting both air and water. In addition, the amount of energy it takes to produce and use plastic bottles is overwhelmingly disproportionate to the amount of time it takes for their decomposition. It takes nearly a century for plastic to decompose, and yet, every year we produce more and more plastic bottles. In 2014, global sales of packaged water reached 223 billion litres. Ooho! containers will prevent immense environmental damage.
The most remarkable part about this green container is its future potential to be made at home: an Ooho! bottle should only cost 1 penny! Unfortunately today only big companies have adequate infrastructure for manufacturing, but Ooho! creators hope to see people in future adjusting proportions of the ingredients of their original Ooho! “recipe” to fit personal preferences at home.
Two weeks ago in Birmingham, UK, Ooho! creators won 20,000 euros as semi-finalists in the 2015 edition of Climate-KIC’s Venture Competition. Climate-KIC, created in 2010 by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), operates the world’s largest clean technology startup accelerator focused on climate change. Semi-finalist and finalist projects will be presented at the annual United Nations Conference on Climate Change, which will be held this year from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris. This is the world’s largest and most influential conference relating to climate change.
Hopefully, this amazingly simple, biodegradable and hygienic water holder will not only be welcomed by those who attend the UN Summit, but also by us. Perhaps edible water bottles will become a future fad that will significantly reduce our plastic waste in hopes of cleaner, bluer skies and oceans.