It is a well-known fact that plastic bottles, which take hundreds of years to decompose, are harmful to our environment. However, efforts by environmentalists to encourage consumers to switch to alternatives, like water fountains or reusable bottles, have not been very effective. The U.S. alone utilizes over 50 million plastic bottles annually, 80% of which end up in landfills.
To try to combat that, Rodrigo García González, Pierre Paslier, and Guillaume Couche from the Imperial College London have been working on an innovative solution — water encased inside an edible container made using seaweed. All the customer has to do to quench his/her thirst is poke a hole in the surface layer or, better still, pop the entire blob into the mouth.
The creators, who have been working on the Ooho bubble since 2014, use a simple two-step culinary process called spherification to create the ingenious container. They begin by immersing a frozen ball of water or juice into a calcium chloride solution. This helps form a gelatinous layer around the liquid. The ball is then soaked in a solution made from brown algae extract. This creates a second layer, helping reinforce the structure so that the water or juice does not leak. In addition to saving our environment, the biodegradable packaging costs just two cents each, making it cheaper to manufacture than plastic.
After three years of perfecting the design, the inventors, who recently raised over $1 million USD from a crowdfunding campaign, are ready to bring the Ooho bubble to market. However, there are a few challenges that still need to be overcome before it becomes a serious contender to plastic bottles.
In addition to getting accustomed to the texture of the tasteless covering, each edible container contains just a gulp of water, requiring consumers to drink multiple bubbles to quench their thirst. There is also the issue of finding an eco-friendly packaging to transport the bubbles so that they remain clean and do not burst. Finally, popping an Ooho bubble into the mouth is not the most elegant way to drink water or juice given that the liquid can splatter. Hopefully, the creators will find ways to combat the issues so that we can reduce, or perhaps even eliminate, plastic bottles.
Resources: fastcompany.com. theverge.com