Despite more recent efforts to clean up plastic waste in our oceans, a recent prediction by the World Economic Forum forecasted that the total weight of plastics will be larger than the total weight of fish – specifically due to the overall rise of global consumption. But what if at least some of those numbers could be offset by sourcing biodegradable replacement materials from the very place that they’re likely to end up?
As the winner of this year’s Lexus Design Award 2016, three Japanese designers explored how agar sourced from marine algae can be used as an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic for packaging materials – or what they call Agar Plasticity. Although traditionally consumed as food or used in scientific applications, agar comes in a naturally dry state as an ultralight, porous structure – not unlike existing packaging materials.
To create the marine-friendly packaging material, the team boiled a specific type of red algae to extract the agar. Once extracted, the thick liquid is then placed into molds where it can dehydrate and be formed into a Styrofoam or bubble wrap replacement:
“Because agar is also moldable, it was proposed not only as a cushioning material, but also as packaging material. We have also explored the possibility of an agar-derived plastic material. After use, agar products can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. It can serve as a material to improve the water-retention property of soil. Should it drift in the sea, it would not harm marine life.”