Not a day goes past that there is not another shocking video of a deceased sea animal being dissected only to find its killer lurking inside – plastic.
Bags, bottles, and microbeads are finding their way into the marine environment and that can’t continue. We have heard of those beer can ring-holders being made from edible materials like rice and wheat, but the problem of plastic bottles remains.
The group Recycle Now estimates that the average UK household uses around 480 plastic bottles a year but only recycles around 270, so nearly half are never recycled, winding up in landfills or the ocean. That equates to an estimated 16 million bottles in the UK alone.
Skipping Rocks Lab is an innovative sustainable packaging start-up based in London looking to challenge the issue with a new innovation – the Ooho.
The brainchild of Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez and Pierre Paslier, Ooho is a unique packaging material that encapsulates water and juices in flexible, fully biodegradable bite-sized packets.
They are made of 100% seaweed and plants so they biodegrade in just four to six weeks, and because they are completely natural material, they are completely edible, too.
This could be a game changer for the foodservice industry in terms of setting out its environmental stall and committing to cutting down and eventually replacing plastic bottles, which are costly to transport, store and remove.
This is no pie-in-the-sky idea, either. Paslier has several years of expertise as a packaging engineer working for L’Oréal, while Gonzalez is an awarded innovation designer, both holding several packaging patents. Having raised some £850k in just three days through crowd funding, the team are looking to fully commercialise Ooho by developing a market-ready machine capable of producing Oohos automatically during the next 12 months.
The machine will reduce the cost per unit to be competitive with plastic and Ooho can lease machines and sell proprietary input material to retailers, to package their own water and other soft drinks on site.
“We also plan to sell water Oohos directly to consumers at large sporting and entertainment events,” says Skipping Rocks Lab.
“Our mission is to provide sustainable packaging technologies to companies as an alternative to plastic packaging.
“Skipping Rocks Lab intends to become the ‘Tetrapak’ of sustainable packaging. We will sell the materials, the machinery and the branded products that put seaweed at the forefront of all packaging.
“This summer we will be selling our own brand of flavoured waters and health shots at shops, festivals and running events.”
They come in three sizes, 20ml, 55ml and 150mls, and flavours include minty fresh, elderflower, blackcurrant, orange, ginger shots and hot shots. Going forward, Ooho will look to work with brands to encapsulate their drinks, and with retailers to have production capability in every store.
The initial aim for the group is to replace the smaller on-the-go, single-serve bottles that reportedly account for about 30% of the bottled water market in the UK.
A group of Oohos can be encapsulated in a peelable skin, said to be ‘like an orange’. The material is transparent but can be coloured to differentiate the peel from the core.
For large sporting events in stadia and arenas, where hundreds of thousands of people use single-use water bottles, the Ooho could be the new sustainable option.
“We are developing a commercial machine to produce Oohos quickly and in large quantities,” says Skipping Rocks Lab. “The machine will also be able to make Oohos that are bigger and of different shapes. These water ‘sachets’ will replace water and drinks bottles for hydration-on-the-go. Expect to see Oohos at every sustainable festival and running event in 2018!”
“Skipping Rocks Lab is concerned with the impact of the packaging industry on resources, pollution and the environment. Some 36bn plastic bottles are consumed each year around the world and that number is growing.
“Producing a 1L PET bottle consumes up to 7L of water, 200g of crude oil, and will generate 30g of waste that will take 700 years to decompose.
“This waste often ends up in the marine environment and even enters our food chain through consumption by fish.
“More than 30% of these bottles are 500ml or less, representing a considerable amount of waste for drinking on-the-go (five-min use on average). Our aim is to make packaging with a shelf-life that better matches our use-and-dispose consumer habits.”