Seaweed-based water pouch aims to end the need for plastic bottles
by Ryan Whitwam
Plastic bottles make it easy to transport water, but it takes energy to make the bottles. When you’re done with your drink, it takes more energy to unmake the bottle, as plastics won’t fully degrade on their own. Now a startup called Skipping Rock Labs thinks we can just skip plastic bottles entirely. It has developed a capsule called “Ooho!” for transporting water that is not only biodegradable, it’s edible.
Skipping Rock Labs was founded by three design students in London. They started thinking about the way water is stored and consumed on the go after working on a program to collect and repurpose plastic bottles. They looked to nature to come up with a better way, eventually settling on a membrane structure. Membranes are used throughout nature because they’re efficient — think cells, fruit, and eggs. They all use membranes to contain liquid, because it’s efficient to have material in traction rather than compression.
Ooho’s membrane is composed mainly of seaweed. Based on the creators’ original description of the product, Ooho membranes are a gelatin composed of sodium alginate from seaweed and calcium chloride. The resulting material is extremely inexpensive — each pouch of water costs only two cents to produce. Because the membrane is entirely organic, you can eat it after you drink the water.
Eating the membrane provides even more hydration, but just because you can eat it doesn’t mean you’ll want to. There’s no taste, and the texture is reportedly a bit unusual and takes some getting used to. It should be possible to add flavoring to the membrane to make them a bit more palatable. Still, you can just toss them in the bushes and they’ll break down naturally. That’s certainly more than you can say for a plastic bottle. Even the packaging for multiple Ooho water containers will be composed of the biodegradable material.
The company first unveiled Ooho in 2014 after testing the design with people around the world. Now, Skipping Rock Labs is aiming for a wider rollout of Ooho by bringing it to events like music festivals and marathons. The company has been funded entirely with grants and awards thus far, but it’s now doing a round of funding. A campaign just wrapped up on CrowdCube, which is a bit like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, except you’re buying a small piece of the company. Skipping Rock Labs was looking for £400,000, and it nearly doubled that. You might start seeing Ooho around more often in the coming months.
Originally published at www.extremetech.com on April 13, 2017.