Ari Jónsson

Icelandic design: a biodegradable bottle made from seaweed

Posted on 09 August 2016.

Worried about the flood of plastic packaging that ends up in the ocean, Ari Jónsson, a young Icelandic design student, came up with the idea of creating a biodegradable bottle from seaweed.

The bottle, made from agar – itself made from seaweed – is solid when full but decomposes once empty. Simple!

Every year, 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean. The equivalent of the contents of an entire garbage truck every minute... Estimates suggest there are already approximately 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s seas!

Worried about these alarming findings, a young Icelandic student studying at the arts academy in Reykjavik came up with an idea: why not create biodegradable and even edible bottles?

It was in March, at the DesignMarch festival in the Icelandic capital, that Ari Jónsson presented his project – bottles made from agar. Well known to cooks, it’s a natural jelly-like substance derived from seaweed.

When added to water, the powdered agar turns to a jelly that can be molded into the shape of a container. When filled, it solidifies in the shape of a bottle; and when emptied, it decomposes naturally... or as agar is edible, can even be eaten!

It’s a striking invention. An original response to the issue of plastic waste that far too often ends up in the ocean’s depths.

Oceans of plastic : an alarming report

In an enlightening report released in early 2016 that was based on some alarming findings, the World Economic Forum raises the issue of a "new plastics economy".

We produce twenty times more plastic now than fifty years ago, in particular for packaging (26% of the total plastic used). Plastic production shot up from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to 311 million tonnes in 2014. And it is likely to double in the next twenty years.

95% of plastic packaging is lost after being used once, only 14% is collected for recycling. That’s a much lower percentage than for paper (58%) or metal (70-90%) according to the same study.

If nothing is done, the report states that by 2025 our oceans will contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish - and by 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish!

Associations like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Surfrider Foundation are ringing the alarm bells and supporting innovative alternatives.

With his promising invention, Ari Jónsson is following in the footsteps of those who are considering more environmentally friendly and sustainable containers. For example Algopack, a small business in Saint-Malo, which manufactures a rigid material from waste brown algae; and the London based Skipping Rocks Lab collective, which created the Ooho! Concept - a container for drinking or eating.

The new plastics economy is ready to roll!