BY: JESSICA BEUKER
Recently, product design student Ari Jonsson showcased his new project at this year’s DesignMarch, Reykjavik’s annual design festival. His project combined red algae powder with water to create a biodegradable water bottle.
“Why are we using materials that take hundreds of years to break down in nature to drink from once and then throw away?” Jonsson expressed to Dezeen. He feels this new water bottle could be an answer to the staggering amount of plastic waste produced every single day.
In the US alone, approximately 50 billion plastic water bottles are used each year. But according to Ban The Bottle, America’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means that, every year, 38 billion water bottles wind up in overflowing landfills. That’s a scary thought when paired with the fact that plastic water bottles can take up to 1000 years to decompose. At this rate, if we don’t find a solution, our planet is headed for a reality that resembles the film WALL-E.
“Every year, 38 billion water bottles wind up in overflowing landfills”
That’s why Jonsson’s breakthrough is even more impressive. Jonsson came across powdered agar while experimenting, which is a substance made from algae. When agar powder is added to water, it forms a jelly-like material. According to Dezeen, Jonsson experimented with different proportions before finding what worked. Once he did, he slowly heated the substance before pouring it into a bottle-shaped mould that was kept in the freezer. He rotated the mould while submerged in ice-cold water until the liquid inside the mould had taken the shape of the bottle. Finally, the mould was placed in the refrigerator before the bottle was ready.
If the bottle is full of water, it will keep its shape, but as soon as it is empty, it will begin to decompose. Since the bottle is made from 100 percent natural materials, it is completely safe to drink from. And of course, it would be a big step in eliminating plastic water bottles.
“If the bottle is full of water, it will keep its shape, but as soon as it is empty, it will begin to decompose”
© Ari Jonsson
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as encouraging people to use reusable bottles or drink tap water. Yes, many people drink bottled water because they believe it is cleaner or tastes better than tap water, but many others drink bottled water because of the convenience. It’s easy to pick up a bottle of water from the store, while you’re running errands on a hot day. Or at festivals, concerts and fair, where you are not allowed to bring in your own drinks, buying a bottle of water is often necessary. This is why changing the material that water is being sold in is a good first step to decreasing the amount of plastic waste we use each year.
And innovators have been experimenting with algae for quite some time now. The Urban Algae Canopy acts as a shelter that produces shade, energy in the form of biomass and as much oxygen as produced by four hectares of woodland. The Algae Farm, a network of transparent tubes filled with circulating algae and attached to bridges or underpasses, absorbs CO2 produced by cars and trucks and turns it into biomass, used to create things like biodiesel, green electricity and cosmetic products, to name a few.
Jonsson’s new water bottle is just another amazing use for this versatile and natural resource.