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121: Edible water bubbles

Problem:

About 50 billion single-use plastic water bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are produced in the United States each year, and most are discarded. The properties that make PET useful as a packaging material (stability and durability) also make it resistant to breaking down after its useful life is over.

Solution:

Edible water bubbles.


The idea of an edible biodegradable capsule for artificial edible cherries, soft sheets, and the like, called spherification, was first patented in London by Unilever engineer William Peschardt in 1942. More recently the method was introduced into modernist cooking by Spanish chef Ferran Adrià.

The most recent adaptation has been made by Pierre-Yves Paslier of Skipping Rocks Lab. Paslier started his career as a packaging engineer for L’Oréal in the daytime and hacking 3D-printers in his living room at night.

He then decided to study design at the RCA and in 2013, he co-designed one of the first consumer delta 3D-printers. Paslier left L’Oréal in 2012 to start a Masters degree in innovation, design and engineering at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art, where he set about brainstorming non-plastic container designs.

He and classmate Rodrigo García González studied the properties of watermelons, tomatoes, coconuts and tapioca to understand how natural foods hold liquids. They finally settled on seaweed as their material of choice.

They called their edible water ball, made by dropping ice into separate solutions of calcium salt and “Notpla” a brown sodium alginate, the Ooho.

You can drink them by tearing a hole into the skin and pouring the water into your mouth, or they can be consumed whole. Containing 100 ml of liquid, the balls can be produced by a compact machine at their point of sale, eliminating the need for cups.

In 2014 Paslier and Gonzales founded Gravity Sketch, a VR 3D design platform and Skipping Rocks Lab, a sustainable packaging company, in London’s East End.

A crowd sourcing campaign as well as its accompanying YouTube went viral enabling Skipping Rocks to raise more than US$ 1 M from 1,000 investors in a mere three days. The manufacturing processes are covered under a Creative Commons license, making the recipe freely distributed and readily available for anyone to use.

In July 2018, they launched sauce sachets made from the seaweed material, which were on a six-week trial at 10 London takeaways with the delivery service Just Eat. Following the success of the trial, 10 London restaurants further trialled this product for 8 weeks, which is expected to prevent approximately 40,000 plastic sauce packets from entering homes.

Ginger and fruit juice shots were delivered to Selfridges department store, and the product was sold at UK music festivals as edible alcohol shots, including espresso martini and tequila sunrise.

In April 2019, when more than 41,000 people running in the London Marathon reached reach mile 23, thanks to Lucozade Ribena Suntory, they were handed Oohos instead of bottles. However, a video surfaced that showed streets strewn with plastic waste after the race was over.

That September, the Harrow half marathon in London replaced single use bottles and cups with Oohos. Paslier and Gonzalez are now experimenting with on green alternatives to cling film and the plastic liners used in throwaway coffee cups and ways to replace plastic toiletries bottles in hotel rooms.

What you can do: Discover Oohos or plan for the extended use of bottles and flasks.

Discover solution 122: The Climate Clock

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