By Diane Small
There is one enormous, and growing problem facing the environment, and even the most eco-conscious of us are guilty of it–using plastic.
In our daily lives, this mainly happens in one circumstance: when we try to quench our thirst. Whether you’re drinking locally sourced water or just grabbing a cup of whatever is in your office cooler, you’re probably using a plastic container. But this could soon change, thanks to three London-based industrial design students.
Inspired by the natural construction of eggs and techniques from molecular gastronomy, the trio has created Ooho, a blob-like water container that they say is easy and cheap to make, strong, hygienic, biodegradable, and most interestingly–edible.
The way it works is this: a double membrane holds the liquid using “spherification,” the technique of shaping liquids into spheres first pioneered in labs in 1946 and more recently popularised by chefs at the Michelin starred el Bulli restaurant in Spain. It works like an egg yolk, which also holds its shape using a thin membrane.
A compound comprised of algae and calcium chloride creates a gel around the liquid, and the while the ‘container’ is being formed, the liquid contents are frozen, making it possible to create a bigger sphere and keeping the ingredients separate.
The designers believe this is an essential innovation–they acknowledge that while there certainly was a time when people simply drank from taps or thermoses, they’ve become addicted to convenience and are unlikely to give up buying drinks contained in plastic. Unfortunately, despite increasing numbers of recycling centres, over 80% of all plastic bottles are not recycled.
When campaigners suggest drinks companies switch to glass, the manufacturers complain it’s too heavy, and besides, the added weight adds to more CO2 emissions due to transport. By rethinking the bottle, the designers say it’s also possible for manufacturers to reduce costs–the Ooho can be made for just 2 cents, much cheaper than plastic.
Of course, there are some challenges faced by Ooho: how can the package stay clean before it’s consumed, for example? But similar products have made it to market, such as the edible Wikipearl, which is now available at selected Whole Foods, and the Ooho design has had much support: it was a winner of the second annual Lexus Design Award and will be on display during Milan Design Week.
You just may be ‘eating’ your water sooner than you think!