Functional packaging comes in many shapes and sizes. Now Icelandic design student Ari Jonsson has turned the concept on its head. He has designed a water bottle that is functional in the truest sense of the word. It holds water but as soon as it is empty, it decomposes, leaving only biological matter behind. The bottle is made of agar, a substance derived from algae.

Jonsson developed the concept when pondering the absurdity of using a material that takes hundreds of years to break down – plastic – to store and carry water, which will disappear in minutes if not seconds when consumed or spilled. “I read that 50 % of plastic is used once and then thrown away so I feel there is an urgent need to find ways to replace some of the unreal amount of plastic we make, use and throw away each day,” Jonsson told Dezeen magazine. When researching natural alternatives he came across algae-derived agar. Agar is often used in Petri dishes to grow cell cultures and in many traditional Asian deserts. Its gelatinous consistency makes it pliable so it can be shaped by pouring it into moulds.


What intrigued Jonsson most about the semi-translucent material was the fact that agar needs water to keep his structural characteristics. Without it, it falls apart. Jonsson thus created a bottle that embodies a perfect functional symbiosis with water.

Jonsson, a design student at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, presented the bottle at a design exhibition in Reykjavik where it attracted a lot of attention. The water is safe to drink even though it can acquire a slightly salty ocean-like taste, according to Jonsson. The bottle can also be eaten after use but because the agar doesn’t look too appetizing once it starts breaking down, it is more likely that it will need to be thrown in the compost bin to biodegrade.


While the concept certainly attracted a lot of attention, it is unlikely that the algae-based bottles will replace plastic bottles in the near future. The material tears quite easily, which doesn’t make it especially well suited for carrying around or storing it on supermarket shelves. Jonsson knows that his project is only a starting point. Like other water bottle alternative, for instance the Ooho bottle that we wrote about a few months back, the algae-based bottle is another invention that adds to the discussion about sustainable packaging materials.