Water is an essential component of life. After all, up to 60 percent of the human body is made up of water that’s constantly being replenished. It detoxifies the body, keeps cells healthy, and aids in digestion. That’s why it’s important to drink 8-10 glasses of water daily. Although ample water is essential to optimal health, plastic water bottles are widely known as an irresponsible means of staying hydrated. That’s why scientists are looking for new and innovative ways for us to get our fill of this liquid glory without plastic.
The Problem with Plastic
Plastic water bottles come with a host of issues. First of all, plastic isn’t biodegradable, which means it doesn’t break down, and thus ends up polluting our lakes, rivers, and streams while piling up in landfills. In the U.S., 1,500 plastic water bottles are used every second. Marine species and seabirds often fall victim to our discarded aqua vessels. One dead albatross, in particular, was found with 113 discarded water bottle caps in its stomach, and a sperm whale fell victim to a water bottle lodged in its small intestine. When waste has nowhere to go, it litters Mother Nature while taking its toll on wildlife.
Plastic is also problematic because it’s made from hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL) and natural gas. HGLs are petroleum byproducts made from oil and natural gas refining. In 2010, 191 million barrels of HGL were used just for the production of plastic.
Plastic also contains bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical compound that’s a known endocrine disruptor. BPA confuses the endocrine system and causes problems with fertility in women and birth defects in fetuses. It may also be a carcinogen. Plastic water bottles also contain phthalates, another endocrine disruptor known to cause developmental problems in children, reduced sperm counts, and tumors in animal studies.
Ooho!: An Edible Alternative
Ooho! is a new form of biodegradable and edible (yes, you read that right!) packaging invented by three London-based industrial designers: Rodrigo García González, Guillaume Couche, and Pierre Paslier. Shaped like a gelatinous blob, it’s described by the company’s founders as “water you can eat.” Made from calcium chloride and a brown seaweed derivative called sodium alginate, it’s strong, biodegradable, and once you’re done slurping it up, you can take down the packaging as well. No, you don’t have to eat the container, but it’s natural enough that if you wanted to, you could safely ingest the packaging without taking in any of the nasty chemicals listed above.
How Ooho! Is Made
The blob-like container is made through a process called spherification, which shapes liquids into a sphere and then constructs an edible gel around the liquid. The water is frozen and then the gel is formed around it. It’s like popping a blob of hydration in your mouth that is similar in consistency to an egg yoke. The membrane holds the liquid in place but then can be easily punctured and even eaten. The double membrane around the water also makes it possible to brand and label the product while keeping the water from being contaminated. When you’re done slurping the water inside, you’re left with edible packaging that resembles thicker cling wrap (though it’s not plastic).
An Inexpensive Fix
Even better, Ooho! isn’t expensive, costing just 2 cents per bottle. And since production is cheap it has the potential to even compete with plastic water bottles, which are currently a ubiquitous part of the industry. Although Ooho! isn’t in production yet, the company founders recently won a sustainability award from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology for coming up with a good replacement for plastic water bottles.
The Downsides Of Ooho!
Ooho! does have a few downsides. First, it’s somewhat messy when you bite into the hydration bubble, leaving droplets of water behind. And second, it would be difficult to keep the packaging from being contaminated in commute, especially if it’s supposed to be completely edible.
Ooho! is a great invention for those who love bottled water but don’t like the unsustainable plastic water bottle that’s left over. It’s delicious hydration with zero waste.