Plastic water bottles have become almost ubiquitous. Whether going for a run, a hike, a short bike trip or a walk around the neighborhood, many people carry bottled water with them. While keeping hydrated is deemed healthy, many water bottles are not properly disposed of, adding to a growing waste problem. Three young designers, Rodrigo García González, Pierre Paslier and Guillaume Couche from the design firm Skipping Rocks Lab developed a water bottle that can either be eaten or thrown into the compost bin after use.
The designers looked to a culinary technique called spherification, which was originally discovered and patented in 1946 and is often used in modernist’s kitchens to create fake caviar or edible tea and juice bubbles. The technique varies according to the calcium content of the liquid to be spherified. Because they were dealing with water, Gonzáles and his team first dipped a frozen ball of water into a calcium chloride solution and then soaked it in a solution made from brown algae extract. The solutions formed a gelatinous layer around the water, thus encapsulating it. The bottle named Ooho is cheap to make, costing around a penny per bottle.
The inspiration for the water bubbles came from nature when the designers looked at the surface tension that holds together drops of water. They also examined the thin membranes around egg yolks and other delicate structures that keep a balance between the exterior and the interior. What’s intriguing about the edible bottle is not only the fact that it can be eaten or decomposes after use but also that people can make it at home with relatively simple means.
There are several problems that need to be solved, however, before the bubble bottle can actually replace plastic bottles, ranging from hygienic storage to transportation and portability. If a plastic container is needed to take the edible bottles along for a run or a hike, then the problem of an increase in plastic packaging has just shifted. The designers are currently working on a solution to place several Ooho bottles with a fruitlike skin into a bigger bubble with thicker skin.
Still, many experts believe the Ooho bottle has potential. Skipping Rocks Lab has received a sustainability grant from the European Union to work on introducing the novel concept on a large scale. The product also won the Lexus Design Award and the World Technology Award in the category environment held in association with Fortune and TIME.