Biodegradable Water Bottles Made from Agar: a New Frontier for Plastic Manufacturing?
There’s no way around it: plastic is no good for our environment. Sometimes it ends up rotting in a landfill producing greenhouse gasses. Sometimes it just floats around in the ocean forever. But plant-based biodegradable “plastic” could be a more cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly possibility.
According to the World Economic Forum, plastic is expected to outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050. Imagine if your neighbor threw their trash in your yard once a week but you had no way to remove it (or them). That would suck right? Currently, the weight equivalent to that of a garbage truck’s contents is leaking into the ocean each minute. By 2050 that amount is expected to average about four per minute. So how do we slow this down?
Exploring new packaging and manufacturing methods is a great start. Creating garbage is essentially inevitable no matter how hard you try to recycle and conserve– you still have virtually no control over how the products you buy are manufactured and packaged. That’s why Ari Jonsson from Iceland set out a to create plastic bottle that is not only biodegradable but also edible.
Agar is a powder made from algae that forms a jelly when added to water– already widely used as a vegetable-based substitute for gelatin. When consumed agar can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol and other negative effects of obesity– probably because it’s about 80% fiber. Jonsson used an agar mixture which he placed into bottle-shaped molds. The finished product: a biodegradable edible water bottle. There are still a few kinks to work out. The bottle will start to decompose as soon as it’s empty– which isn’t potentially a bad thing. Plus agar is fragile which would make mass-produced water bottles difficult to transport and distribute without breaking. Either way, this opens up a bunch of new possibilities for agar-based biodegradable water bottles and other plastic products.
Companies around the world have already been experimenting with different forms of algae and seaweed for use in textiles, architecture and even as a biofuel. It may even be more cost-efficient from a manufacturing standpoint in the long run. The price of seaweed and agar fluctuates; the cost of producing (and destroying) conventional plastic continues to rise. Especially once you take carbon emissions and oil into consideration. Plus it’s toxic. It’s time for companies to start exploring and adapting new plant-based sources for manufacturing.