That’s It: Biodegradable packaging from algae-based material

Petroleum based plastic, and especially packaging, is a major problem in our world. It does not degrade, at least not in our lifetime, and if it is not recycled, a large part of it ends up in the ocean. To find a solution for this problem, product designer Austeja Platukyte has been experimenting to make biodegradable packaging from algae-based material, called That’s It.

During her final thesis for her bachelor at the Vilnius Academy of Arts (LT), Platukyte followed the Zero Waste philosophy and aimed to find a solution to find a substitute for synthetic plastic packaging using natural resources. The material had to be biodegradable as well. After experimenting with several natural materials, she eventually landed on algae based material. This material is wholly organic and consists only of agar (which is derived from algae) dissolved in water, calcium carbonate, and a vegetable based emulsifying mix that is used to impregnate the material.

The result is a bowl-like packaging material. It can be closed with a lid made from plywood and a rubber band.

Platukyte believes the material is a viable alternative for synthetic plastic. It holds its shape, is waterproof and protects the content against possible damage. In addition, it is lightweight and resistant to compression. And, most importantly, it is biodegradable.

After the product is consumed, the algae packaging can be composted or used as fertiliser. As it decomposes, natural processes and micro-organisms will transform the material into layers of chalk, which causes no harm to the environment or other organisms.

One of the bowls was broken and buried on the forest to verify the biodegradability. It is monitored closely and after a few months, it showed clear signs of deterioration. While that seems slow, the process is considerably faster than the deterioration of synthetic plastic and much less harmful for the enivornment.

Platukyte’s project That’s It was on display during the Dutch Design Week 2016 (22-30 October).

For more algae based packaging, click here.

Photos via Austeja Platukyte