This water bottle decomposes when it’s empty… and you can eat it, too

Algae-based water bottle designed to make us think about our reliance on plastic


If you’re partial to money-saving meal deals in supermarkets for your daily desk lunch, you’ve probably amassed quite the range of plastic bottles. Not only are you spending lots of money, you’re likely getting through around 250 bottles per year.

Ideally, the majority of these will be recycled, but if they’re not, plastic bottles are terrible for the environment. They take hundreds of years to break down in landfills and the British Plastics Federation estimates that just 24% of the UK’s plastic is getting recycled. The aim is to hit 57% by 2017, a goal that seems both pretty weak AND hugely ambitious at the same time.

There could be other ways of tackling our plastics predicament, at least in the case of bottles. Ari Jónsson from the Iceland Academy of Arts has come up with a novel solution to the problem – a biodegradable bottle that breaks down as soon as the liquid is removed.

The bottle is made from agar powder, which is taken from the cell walls of red algae. When added to water and cooled, it forms a jelly-like mould which can hold water. It’ll maintain its shape when it has water inside, but as soon as it’s gone, the bottle will begin to break down.

Because it’s natural and non-toxic, you can actually eat the bottle should you wish… though you might not want to. As Jónsson explains in an interview with Fast Company, the bottle is something of an acquired taste: “It's hard to describe. I could say it's like seaweed jello but I don't think many people have tasted something like that.” Fortunately, the flavour should stay away from the liquid inside unless it’s left standing for a while.

Sadly, for now, this is just a concept, with no plans to become commercially available. But like the mushroom coffin suit, which also began as a talking point about our environmentally damaging ways before eventually arriving on sale, one day something like the algae bottle could wean us off our plastics addiction. Or at least start the conversation.

“I can't claim that this is the perfect solution for our problem with plastic bottles,” said Jónsson, “but it's a start and an idea that hopefully helps us to look at new ways to solve the problem. Switching to reusable bottles is also great, but that will have its pros and cons, just like my project.

“The more ways we can tackle this issue the better.”

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Photos: Ari Jónsson

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