Plastics, plastics everywhere! Plastics no more enjoy the unblemished optimism that they used to when they were first invented. The cause? Plastics don’t degrade and disappear, they just accumulate and remain there forever. You probably are not unaware of the fact that plastics are destroying our planet. The proof if you must ask, and often the symbol of the plastics waste problem is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which has often been described as a swirl of plastic garbage the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean. Plastics are projected to outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050. But enough about that, we have some good news for you.
Plastic from sea-weed?
Would you try eating your protein bar without removing the wrap on it? No, not with the kind of plastic wraps they come with now. But, it could be a possibility with Evoware. The company has developed a plastic from sea weed which is completely edible.
Don’t worry its not going to ruin the taste in your mouth. Evoware claims that this packaging odourless and tasteless (you could also customise its taste, if you really wanted to). Add to that, this seaweed packaging is rich in nutrition. It contains high levels of fibre, vitamins and minerals. And for our Halal eating friends: It’s Halal certified too!
We want to create a cleaner world by stopping plastic waste from the root
says David Christian, co-founder of the Indonesia based startup, Evoware.
Why we think using sea-weed is awesome?
Sea-weeds are stuff of high protein and more than 21 species are used in Japan (and in other Asian cuisines) for everyday recipes. Some of these recipes have traces back at the eighth century.
Indonesia is only second to China in creating plastic pollution that ends up in the ocean, and four of the Indonesian rivers are among the most polluted on Earth. All this makes the presence of Evoware in Indonesia even more significant. The founders also had an interest in helping seaweed farmers Indonesia improve their livelihood.
It takes one hectare of ocean to produce 40 tons of dry seaweed annually; that volume absorbs 20.7 tons of carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions during the cultivation process. Evoware’s main source of seaweed is Sulawesi, an island east of Borneo.
Litter that doesn’t kill the planet
Well if you are still skeptical of chomping through your wrapper along with your burger, Evoware still cares. The packaging is a 100 percent biodegradable zero waste product that dissolves easily in warm water. It even works as a fertiliser for plants, so you can sprinkle it around in your garden. What Evoware has created is one of those few cases, where your litter is going do the planet a favour.
If you are thinking by now that the product and the company are next-level genius, you’re not alone. Evoware was one of the six winners of the $1 million Circula Design Challenge, a contest run by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and OpenIDeo that focussed on finding solutions for small plastic packaging items that really get recycled (think seasoning sachets, wrappers, coffee cup lids.
Challenges and the future ahead
The process of turning seaweed is highly manual, involving preparing and drying of the raw materials. This precedes the shaping, pressing and cutting of the material into a single-layer material. The packaging material currently has a shelf-life of two years without preservatives and that is appropriate for dry foods.
When it comes to how it handles the packaging, Evoware treats the substance like other food substances for hygienic purposes, according to its marketing materials.
One of the largest objections, as is the case many emerging innovations, to Evoware’s business proposition is price; right now, its packaging is more expensive to use than conventional plastic.
Edwin Aldrin Tan, one of the company’s co-founders says that the company is prioritising how to scale production, and is working on ways to help its customers justify the investment. One of the company’s first publicly named reference accounts is Bruxel Waffle, which sells vegan Belgian Waffles at festivals in Bali. It’s busy sending samples to consumer products companies in Europe, the United States and Australia. In addition, the company is working on a multilayered version of its material that might be better suited for liquids or semi-liquids: the secondary material is dammar gum, Tan said.
What puts Evoware’s products in a unique position?
Evoware is just one of several companies experimenting with using seaweed as a bioplastics source for packaging. Several other organisations conducting research include AMAM, a Japanese design company working on a product called Agar Plasticity, which uses agar harvested from red marine algae; Algix, a research collaboration backed by Kimberly-Clark that focuses mainly on working with algae; and France’s AlgoPack, which also has created cups using seaweed.
Though these materials are biodegradable to varying degrees, edibility is what makes Evoware’s proposition unique. Imagine, the packaging in which your favourite potato chips come is a flavour of your choice and can be eaten without creating any waste.
Another company working on edible package with seaweed at its heart is Skipping Rocks Lab, which also happens to be another of the six winners in the aforementioned Circle Design Challenge. London-based Skipping Rocks Lab’s product is called Delta, and the first proposed applications (as submitted for the contest) involves sachets for liquids, pastes or creams. The team’s first product, Ooho, is an edible water bottle — shaped like a sphere — that can be consumed on the go.