Edible alternatives to plastic packaging sound like a gimmicky nod to environmentalism, more click bait than clean living, but they present a promising alternative to our throwaway culture that is wreaking havoc on the oceans and environment.
One of the key culprits of plastic packaging waste is the soft drinks industry. Whilst most standard plastic drinks bottles are recyclable, the rate of consumption is way too high for recycling efforts to keep up. Additionally, vast quantities of plastic bottles never make it to the recycling bin. But edible formats could arrive on the market sooner than expected if responses to one recent novelty are positive.
Start-up company Skipping Rocks Lab has developed Ooho capsules, in a concentrated bid to offer a viable alternative to plastic bottles. The capsules have caught the attention of major soft drinks player Lucozade Ribena Suntory, and they have partnered with Skipping Rocks Lab to offer Lucozade Sport in the capsules during a two-part trial this month. The capsules will be handed out to runners at the Richmond Marathon in London in mid-September, as well as to participants at a Tough Mudder event in West Sussex, to measure the public response to the packaging alternative.
Made entirely out of seaweed and plant materials, the capsules resemble gelatinous bubbles filled with liquid and look a little futuristic. They can be flavoured or coloured and have the same biodegradable lifespan as a piece of fruit.
While the fresh nature of the packaging materials limits the capsules’ shelf life, Skipping Rocks Lab may have produced a commercially viable alternative to plastic as they claim that the capsules are cheaper than conventional plastics. Big businesses often make noises regarding sustainability initiatives and farfetched targets but, like most ugly aspects of modern consumption, real change is only likely to come about when there is a financial viability to switch to sustainable methods.
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However, the success of the Ooho capsules may be dependent on consumers willing to change the way in which they treat bottled drinks. The sizes of the capsules are equivalent to a large gulp at best and have the obvious disadvantage of not being resealable. Capsule drinks may be envisaged best as an accompaniment to lifestyle changes that the public is already embracing, such as carrying a reusable water bottle. Where there are no opportunities to refill a drinks bottle on the go, a capsule of mineral water offered for sale at the till might tide the consumer over, preventing them from giving in to the destructive convenience of a polyethylene container.
Ooho presents a novel alternative to plastic packaging and should therefore be considered, as should any solution that presents big businesses with a financially viable alternative to the current plastic crisis. But it is unlikely to be the sole saviour of Mother Earth from plastic waste. Instead it is possible to envisage Ooho capsules as part of a larger movement towards environmentally responsible consumption that would involve a resurgence of public water fountains and an investment in the infrastructure needed for widespread recycling.