According to Oceanic Defense, everything leads to the ocean. Oceanic Defense is an international educational organization whose sole mission is to create “healthy aquatic ecosystems free from human abuse and neglect.” Their website states that 9 out of 10 plastic water bottles in the U.S. are not recycled. They end up in the ocean, landfills, lakes, and streams. The largest landfill in the world is in the middle of the ocean. It is made up mostly of plastic and known as the Great Pacific Garbage Path, and scientists believe it to be the size of Texas times two. Of course, landfills on land are also lousy with plastic water bottles. But no matter where they end up, they take centuries to decompose. In addition, there are the fossil fuels that bottled water uses in its production and transport as well as the contaminants in the water itself to consider. In summary, plastic water bottles are controversial and create lots of problems for the environment. The good news is that three London-based industrial design students have posed a possible solution to all of them in the form of a waste-free water container.
The trio, Guillaume Couche, Rodrigo Garcia Gonzales, and Pierre Paslier, have named the gelatinous blob that fits comfortably in one’s palm Ooho!. The membrane is hygienic, biodegradable, and edible. It is made out of brown algae and calcium chloride and can be cooked up at home for 2 cents a pop. One of the designers stated that “anyone can make them in their kitchen, modifying and innovating the recipe.” Ooho! was a Lexus Design Award winner, and the creators have been invited to exhibit at Milan Design Week 2014. Also known as Fuorisalone, Milan Design Week is, according to their website, “the most important event in the world related to the topic of design.”
The technique the trio used, “spherification,” works similar to the way an egg yolk sac encapsulates its egg yolk. Around since the 1950s, spherification was adapted to the world of molecular gastronomy in 2003 by executive chef Ferran Adria and his creative team at elBulli restaurant in Spain. The restaurant has been referred to as “the most imaginative generator of haute cuisine on the planet,” and the chefs there spherified liquid peas, mango, cantaloupe melon, and truffles. The spheres would “explode” in the mouth, and depending on size, the name of the dish ended in words like ravioli, caviar, or pellets. The designers of Ooho! had a different approach: “We’re applying…spherification to one of the most basic and essential elements of life, water.” While elBulli has closed, Ooho! is just getting started and is slated to go on sale later this year in Boston. That will require packaging labels, a detail that has already been accounted for. Labels can be made out of rice paper, printed with edible ink, and situated between two layers of membrane without using adhesive. Garcia explains that the double membrane also provides hygienic protection for the inner layer. It may be a bit messier to drink from a gelatinous blob, but the ecological benefits far outweigh any inconvenience.
By Donna Westlund