A BIODEGRADABLE and cost-effective alternative to the plastic bottle has secured crowdfunding investment of more than £850,000 (US$1.1m).
The product in question, Ooho, is an edible membrane derived from algae that can be used to encapsulate a range of liquids with no lasting packaging waste.
It is the first product of Skipping Rocks Lab, which is based at Imperial College London and part of the Climate KIC start-up acceleration programme founded by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology. The successful campaign more than doubled its initial investment target on the website Crowdcube.
Each capsule is created by spherification, a process used in the food industry to create fake caviar balls. A frozen ball of liquid is dipped into a solution of calcium chloride and alginate, a salt of alginic acid extracted from brown algae. A membrane then forms around the ice, encapsulating it as it melts. For hygienic reasons Ooho uses a double membrane, as the outer layer can be peeled off and discarded prior to consumption. The capsules can then either be eaten in their entirety or pierced and then consumed. Uneaten membranes then decompose in 4–6 weeks.
The cost of each unit is less than £0.01, cheaper than a plastic bottle which can cost up to three times as much. In the UK alone, 35.8m plastic bottles are used every day but only 19.8m recycled. Skipping Rocks’ co-founder, Pierre Paslier, said: “The problem is that a plastic cap or plastic bottle will take 700 years to decompose. Our goal is to match the actual time it’s going to take to consume with the right packaging.”
The company is currently focussing on a replacement for small, single-serving water bottles, but also has plans to create a machine to create the packaging on-site. Paslier said: “We are targeting the 500 ml and smaller packaging size. Whilst we have made Oohos up to 1.5 L in size for testing purposes, and the material retains its strength with this volume, we are focussing on the smaller on-the-go market.
“The automated machine that we are developing can make a range of shapes and we have worked on a number of different designs. The commercial Ooho will have a better shape more similar to a water sachet than to a sphere with improved convenience. We are also working with a range of thicknesses of material designed to fit each situation.”
To see Ooho's crowdfunding page, visit: https://goo.gl/xswgdU
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