Plastic water bottles come with a higher price tag than most people realize, taking up to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill. The fact that at least half of all water bottles are used only once makes the waste that much more egregious. Icelandic product designer Ari Jónsson decided he needed to take action by fashioning a biodegradable water bottle from algae.
Jónsson said, “I feel there is an urgent need to find ways to replace some of the unreal amount of plastic we make, use, and throw away every day. Why are we using materials that take hundreds of years to break down in nature to drink from once and then throw away?”
His innovative solution to the problem of plastic pollution is agar, a substance made from algae. Agar dates back to the 1650’s, when a Japanese innkeeper tossed out extra soup and saw it gel together overnight. It made its way into microbiology labs in the late 1800’s and is still used today to separate molecules.
To create a bottle out of algae, Jónsson mixed powdered agar with water. The resulting mixture had a wobbly, jelly-like consistency, and he heated it before pouring it into a cold mold. The mold was swirled inside a container of ice water until the agar formed a bottle. Just a few more minutes of refrigeration, and the bottle was ready for use.
The algae bottle retains its unique shape until it is empty, and then it begins to break down. It’s an all-natural alternative to plastic, and Jónsson says drinkers can even chew on the bottle if they enjoy the taste. Agar is often used as a vegetarian or vegan substitute for gelatin in desserts, and is both safe for the environment and humans.
Images courtesy of Ari Jónsson