It’s become common knowledge that plastic bottles are bad for the environment; and this growing concern has led companies to take the initiative in providing alternative solutions.
Edible water pods have been trending on social media lately, with their plastic-free and biodegradable credentials, but are they the future of all water bottles and just exactly how are they created?
This is where “Ooho!” comes in.
Have you heard of “Ooho!”?
Developed by three design students (Rodrigo García González, Pierre Paslier and Guillaume Couche) at the London-based “Skipping Rocks Lab”, the edible water bottle raised over £800,000 on the crowdfunding site crowdcube.
In a bid to stop the amount of plastic being thrown away, the company hopes this product will limit the environmental impact by replacing plastic bottles.
“Ooho!” is a clear spherical package made of seaweed, it is tasteless and acts as a natural membrane which holds the water without being too thick to bite into, and not too thin that it will burst easily. You can create your own flavours, it can be digested and best of all…it’s completely biodegradable!
Skipping Rocks Lab developed the idea in 2013, and the innovation has won a number of awards such as the 2014 Lexus Design Award, the 2015 SEA Award and the 2016 UK Energy Globe Award.
The science behind the water pods and how they’re made
These bite-sized drinks are made from two ingredients: sodium alginate (usually found in the cell walls of brown algae), and calcium chloride (a type of calcium salt).
The edible membrane is created using these two safe ingredients, which last a few days before breaking down. Developers are currently working on ways to improve their expiry date, in order for them to make an appearance in our local shops and supermarkets.
How does it work?
1. The double membrane technique is called ‘spherification’ that was first pioneered in 1946. This method is also used to create fake caviar and to create the tiny balls added to boba tea, where water is frozen into the shape of a ball, to prevent the water molecules from mixing with the membrane chemicals.
2. Once frozen, the ball is then placed into a calcium chloride solution, melting the outer layer of ice.
3. To form the membrane, the water is then placed into a warm sodium alginate solution. The calcium then bonds to the alginate. After 2 to 5 minutes, the molecules will have formed a protective skin while the ice melts in the middle.
If you’re interested putting your science skills to the test, you can create your own edible water pod by following Yuka Yoneda’s Youtube video.
The edible water pod does not have to be consumed; the membrane can be composted or simply thrown away as it will degrade after a few weeks, unlike the 16 million plastic bottles discarded every day in the UK alone.
According to Recycle Now, funded by the government waste advisory group Wrap, the UK household will use an average of 480 plastic bottles per year. Recycling only 270 of them, that’s almost half (44%) that are not being recycled.
Why plastic bottles are bad
1- Mistaken as food
Plastic bottles end up in the same situation as plastic bags; they end up in the ocean or in the belly of the animals that mistake the plastic for food. The National Geographic revealed eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year, this includes the non-recyclable plastic bottle tops.
In December 2017, a video went viral showing a fisherman in Costa Rica pulling out the stomach contents of a mahi mahi fish (aka. dolphin fish). The fish had engulfed three plastic bottle lids, a comb, cigarette lighter, and a plastic bag. Animals aren’t the only ones to suffer at the hands of plastic; it affects everyone’s health.
2- Hazardous to your health
Plastic bottles contain Bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial chemical commonly used to make the plastic clear and sturdy. The problem with BPA is the health problems associated with it, including a higher risk of certain types of cancer (such as breast and uterine cancer), diabetes, infertility and even premature labour.
3- The Lurking Microplastics
There are two main types of microplastics, primary and secondary. Primary are intentionally designed to be of a small size (usually 5mm or less), whilst secondary microplastics have broken down from larger plastics.
These tiny particles can be found in your water bottles, who knew drinking water in your favourite reusable plastic bottle could be so dangerous? A study was conducted on 250 bottles from 11 different water brands, the results showed that microplastics were found in 93% of all bottles.
4- Bacteria everywhere!
Is your water bottle really reusable? If your water bottle hasn’t been properly washed in a week it could become home to gram-negative rods and gram-positive cocci (both cause different types of infections.) If these types of bacteria contaminate the water, it could lead to diarrhoea, urinary tract infection and other illnesses.
A study was carried out on water bottles used by athletes for a week; after these bottles were tested they found that bacteria reached over 900,000 colony-forming units per square cm. Let’s just point out the fact that the average toilet seat has around 295 bacteria per square inch.
Bottled drinks contain phthalates that are used to make plastics flexible. Phthalates are chemicals that have links to disrupting the sperm count, testicular abnormality, tumours, reproduction and development issues. You may have been warned or told off for reusing your favourite plastic bottle and there’s a good reason to put the bottle down. Phthalate concentration increases the longer a plastic bottle is stored, releasing the chemicals from the plastic into the actual drink.
How you can make a difference?
It isn’t as straightforward as dumping your favourite plastic water bottle (and become another non-recyclable statistic). Find ways to repurpose them without letting them end up in a landfill. Check the labelling and find out if the product is really recyclable.
Edible water pods are the first of many steps, as the team at Skipping Rocks Labs continue to develop their products.
How can we help?
By starting to make lifestyle changes, reducing our use of plastic, and incorporating ethics and morals in everything we do. It’s not just going plastic-free that can help make the difference; it’s also important to educate your children and encourage them to have fun the green way.