Plastic is a huge environmental problem due to the fact it doesn’t decompose. If you go to the supermarket you’re surrounded by plastic.
Although recycling does take place most plastic ends up in landfill and a lot ends up in the oceans creating massive pollution with devastating impact on the ocean’s wildlife. This issue has recently been highlighted in a video for Plastic Pollution Coalition narrated by Jeff Bridges.
Three young men from Japan, Kosuke Araki, Noriaki Maetani, Akira Muraoka (AMAM) have just won the Lexus Design Award 2016 tackling this issue by developing a natural alternative to plastic made from algae.
“Seaweed-derived agar is traditionally consumed as food in Japan, and used in scientific and medical fields worldwide. Sold in a dry state, agar shows porous, feathery structure and is very light despite it’s volume. We have taken notice of these features and have been exploring its possibility as packaging material. Goods are usually shipped wrapped in plastic materials. Once unwrapped, they soon become waste or are collected to be recycled. Considering the raw materials and energy for processing, this situation is undesirable. Anticipating effective and sustainable utilisation of natural resources has become more and more indispensable. Believing biodegradable substitutes to plastics are needed, we took this opportunity to tackle this seemingly ignored problem. Agar can be extracted by boiling specific kinds of red algae and then dehydrating the soup. Its resultant state depends on the ways of dehydration, and the types of red algae. For a soft cushioning structure, it’s frozen, for stiff film-like state, it’s compressed. Because agar is also mouldable, it was proposed not only as a cushioning material, but also as packaging material. We have also explored the possibility of an agar-derived plastic material. After use, agar products can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. It can serve as a material to improve the water-retention property of soil, and should it drift in the sea, it would not harm marine lives”
It’s this kind of innovative thinking from young designers that gives hope to the future of the environment.