Millions of tons of plastic waste is left to rot in the ground each year. One of the main sources of this waste is water bottles. It’s the reason why Ari Jónsson, product design student at the Iceland Academy of the Arts, has developed an eco-friendly water bottle.
He used a powdered form of agar, a substance made from algae, to eliminate the near-permanent plastic waste that normal containers leave behind. His biodegradable flasks keep shape while they are full of water and automatically start to decompose as soon as they’re empty. Jónsson explains why algae-based bottles should replace plastic varieties.
How did you come up with the idea to create this bottle?
Agari is a project that started in the course product design methodology at The Icelandic Academy of the Arts. During the program we are encouraged to look for new ways of design to make earth a better place. I started out with two materials and began to study them and look for their strengths and weaknesses, thinking how I could find a new purpose for them. It ended up being bottles made out of agar [powder made from red algae] and water.
What’s the main point of it?
I read that 50 percent of plastic is used once and then thrown away, so I felt there is an urgent need to find ways to replace at least some of what we produce, use and throw away each day. Why are we using materials that take hundreds of years to break down in nature just to drink from them once and then throw away?
Is it hard to make these bottles?
When the agar is added to water it turns into a jello-like substance. After finding the right portions, I slowly heat it up and then pour it into a bottle mold. Then I rotate the mold until the shape is ready and let it sit for a few minutes before removing it.
What’s the lifespan of the bottle?
When it’s full of water, it will keep its shape, but as soon as it’s empty, it will begin to decompose. So as long as it is serving its purpose, it will stay ‘alive’. It could be kept in a fridge and stay fine for a while, but this is something I’ll be researching further.
That sounds like a very short period of time…
Yes. Without water or a cool place, it will start to shrink at the top until it reaches the liquid surface. It's all about keeping the water that's connected with the agar from evaporating, until it is supposed to do that.
Could you actually eat the bottle when it’s empty?
Yes, that is possible. I haven't followed that road in my design, but agar is used in cooking and is a natural component and nothing besides water is added to the mix. It tastes like a salty jello, or a seaweed jello…
Is this the perfect replacement for plastic bottles?
It's still in the early stages of development; there are so many things left to explore and problems to solve before I could answer that question. But I hope that one day it could be one step in the right direction towards a world where plastic is used when it's appropriate but not because its cheap or convenient. Or maybe it will just make us think more and inspire someone else to design that perfect solution.
– By Dmitry Belyaev