In the US alone 1,500 plastic water bottles are consumed every second. A single plastic bottle takes at least 300 years to break down. This is why companies like Notpla are working on inventing alternatives to plastic water bottles.
Notpla uses brown seaweeds harvested from the ocean. These are made to bubble-like edible packaging for drinking water. You can not only drink the water inside this 'bubble', you can eat the entire packaging as well. Brown seaweed is rapidly renewable and grows up to 1meter per day. Harvesting brown seaweed also contributes to reducing acid levels of our ocean. Our ocean has gradually become acidic due to high CO2 content in our atmosphere. When our seas are too acidic, it makes it difficult for corals, oysters, and clams from thriving.
By turning brown seaweeds into edible alternatives for plastic bottles, we help our ocean by reducing plastic waste and making our ocean waters coral-friendly.
How are these edible bottles made? They are inspired by a culinary technique called spherification. This is when a liquid is frozen and then wrapped in algae-type substances that form an exterior layer that keeps the liquid in. It would not be accurate to say that this technology can completely replace plastic bottles. Plastic bottles have characteristics that still make them irreplaceable. But these water 'bubbles' are a great alternative in certain instances like marathons and festivals where thousands of single-use water bottles are used and disposed of right away. These edible bubbles of water are capable of being manufactured in-site, which makes it better bottles in a number of ways.
- No more plastic waste from single-use plastic
- No need for storage
- The ability to add flavours to the edible bubble itself or keep it tasteless as it is now
Though it isn't a direct alternative to plastic bottles in every way, it definitely has some pro's and con's that make it a viable alternative in certain cases. Today, research is being done to use the same technology to package food and keep it fresh, It may also be used to replace the plastic lining in paper box packaging.
The idea may seem foreign at first but it is not difficult to imaging a future where edible packaging becomes so normal that we effectively reduce our plastic waste. What a wonderful thought. That's one good news for today.