An edible alternative to plastic water bottles made from seaweed has topped the UK round of an EU competition for new, more sustainable products.
The new spherical form of packaging, called Ooho and described by its makers as “water you can eat”, is biodegradeable, hygenic and costs 1p per unit to make. It is made chiefly from calcium chloride and a seaweed derivative called sodium alginate.
Ooho won the joint award with Alchemie Technologie, who have created a digital way of dispensing dye for the textile industry. Clothes are dyed selectively using a product similar to an industrial inkjet printer, replacing the full immersion process used currently, which consumes vast quantities of chemicals, water and heat.
Both companies take home €20,000 of investment from the competition run by Climate KIC, created by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the EU body tasked with galvanising the transformation to a sustainable economy. They will go on to compete against entrepreneurs from across Europe.
With global sales of packaged water hitting 223bn litres this year, Ian Ellerington, Director of Science and Innovation at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change and one of the judges of the competition, told the Guardian:
“[Ooho] is a good replacement packaging that would be really widely applicable across lots of different products. The potential for packaging reduction is really high for one of the petroleum products used across the world.”
Ooho designer Pierre Paslier, described the product as like a “man-made fruit”, which uses a double membrane to contain water. To carry larger quantities of water, a number of the capsules can be packed into a larger and thicker skin: much like an orange.
He added: “So many things are wrong about plastic bottles: the time they take to decompose, the amount of energy that goes into making them and the fact we are using more and more.”
Investors are showing an increasing interest in clean technologies, with the global market soaring to £205bn ($310bn) in 2014, a 16% increase. In June, the world’s richest man and Microsoft founder Bill Gates pledged to invest $2bn in breakthrough renewable technologies.
Another finalist presented a cloud-based software system that enables the National Grid to pay people not to use energy at times of peak demand. It is designed to work with household water boilers, solar powered batteries, electric vehicles or the back-up power supplies used by many businesses for appliances from computers to traffic lights. They are using the technology to work with electric car company Tesla to help make their home power storage batteries more financially viable for consumers.
Graham Oakes CEO and founder of Upside Energy said the solution is “a win for just about everybody except the coal miners.”
The company believes the product will be on the market by 2017, with pilot schemes planned for next year. They are aiming to save 500MW of battery hours by 2025, equivalent to 1% of peak load in winter or creating a medium-sized power station.
Oakes says the system works automatically and will “help people to do the right thing without having to change their behaviour”.
Other finalists presented a water purifier that captures energy from solar panels, an index that allows investors to track their financial exposure to carbon and a process that uses bio tanks to create paper from waste straw instead of trees. Entries were showcased on Wednesday at the Science Museum in London.
Read the article on The Guardian.