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Edible water bottles could be in your future thanks to London-based startup Skipping Rocks Lab. Their first product, Ooho, makes you rethink “water on the go.”

The idea behind Ooho came from college students. Three Imperial College London design students, Rodrigo García González, Pierre-Yves Paslier and Guillaume Couche, developed a prototype of an edible bottle in 2014. Today, Gonzalez and Passlier lead Skipping Rocks Lab in a quest to revolutionize the water market.

Concept of Spherification

The edible packaging comes from spherification, the culinary technique behind the balls in bubble tea and fake caviar. This method essentially involves dipping an ice ball in some brown algae extract and calcium chloride. This creates a spherical membrane that will still hold the ice as it melts, returning to room temperature.

The membrane itself is made using food ingredients, meaning it is edible or compostable if you prefer not to eat it. There is no taste naturally associated with it, but Ooho could have flavors added in the future to make it taste better.

The spherification packaging of Ooho follows nature’s design for fruit. You peel away the outer layer like you would a fruit. There is then a clean, inner layer, which you can either eat or compost.

Waste Inspires Innovative Thinking

It is estimated that the US consumes 1,500 plastic water bottles every second. Photo by mali maeder from Pexels

The inspiration for the project was the vast problem of waste, specifically involving plastic bottles. Since more than 50 billion water bottles are thrown out every single year, these edible water bottles can be an excellent material replacement option to reduce waste.

With some estimates indicating that the United States consumes 1,500 plastic water bottles each second, the problem is very serious. This is compounded by the lack of people recycling, which is also worsened by some municipalities placing recycling restrictions on certain plastics.

While there are some compostable cups available on the market, those require industrial facilities for composting. By contrast, Ooho will decompose within weeks in your home compost pile, if you choose not to eat it.

Where Edible Bottles Make Sense

While people may not necessarily want to carry Ooho around with them daily – at least not yet – it does have a broad appeal for specific applications. The Skipping Rocks team sees Ooho being particularly useful at festivals, races, sporting events and other events where people use many plastic bottles of water. It can even save on fuel used to transport plastic bottles since Ooho can be made on-site, making it a great step toward sustainability in more than one way.

Next Steps for the Technology

Currently, the Skipping Rock Lab is working to develop a machine that can produce Oohos daily on location, such as in stores. They project that the machine could produce Oohos in 3-5 seconds, so 100 Oohos could be made in 5-10 minutes.

a handful of multiple Ooho packets
Ooho could be used for more than water. Image credit: Skipping Rocks Lab

It remains to be seen what other situations this edible water bottle would fit. According to Skipping Rocks Lab, “the spherical flexible packaging can also be used for other liquids including water, soft drinks, spirits and cosmetics, and our proprietary material is actually cheaper than plastic.” As the process is perfected and becomes more accessible and accepted, it has the potential to dramatically decrease the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills and oceans.

Innovative thinking like this is just what we need to move us into the future. Kudos to those former design students turned entrepreneurs for thinking outside of the bottle to find a next-generation solution.

The Innovation, Inspiration & Ideas blog was created to share stories and profiles of companies, products and individuals creating innovation in business through inventive material solutions. For more information on why we launched it, read our blog introduction.

 

 

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About the Author

Allison Stroud

Allison Stroud is the managing editor of the Innovation, Inspiration & Ideas blog. A 14-year veteran of Nomaco, Allison specializes in marketing communications and serves as the company historian.

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