Project: This too shall pass
“Is it reasonable that it takes several years for a milk carton to decompose naturally, when the milk goes sour after a week?” Tomorrow Machine, a Swedish studio, was given the assignment by Innventia to collaborate on designing a new packaging concept. This Too Shall Pass is a series of food packages where the packaging has the same short life span as the foods they contain. The package and its content are working in symbiosis.
“Gel of the agar-agar seaweed and water are the only components used to make this package. To open it you pick the top. The package will wither at the same pace as it’s content. It is initially made for drinks that have a short life span and needs to be refrigerated, fresh juice, smoothies and cream for example“
We chose this project and specifically the smoothie packaging because of its simplicity. It appears almost too simple and too good to be true. Also, looking to nature for solutions for problems we encounter nowadays is also very interesting to us. Biomimicry is a great method and we believe strongly in it.
Facts about Agar
- Gelatin-like product made primarily from the algae Gelidiumand Gracilaria
- It is used also in canning meat, fish, and poultry; in cosmetics, medicines, and dentistry; as a clarifying agent in brewing and wine making; as a thickening agent in ice cream, pastries, desserts, and salad dressings; and as a wire-drawing lubricant.
- It is produced mostly in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and Russia.
- Although agar is insoluble in cold water, it absorbs as much as 20 times its own weight. It dissolves easily in boiling water; a dilute solution is still liquid at 42° C but solidifies at 37° C into a firm gel.
Economic – profit
The extraction procedure of agar-agar is fairly cost-effective. The seaweed we’ve managed to track down it’s origin does however come from South America, which means the transportation methods may be costly as the distance it has to travel is pretty far.
Fossil fuel, which is used to make plastic can eventually run out or have a shortage thereof because of political reasons like war.
We see that for example here in The Netherlands in the region of Texel they have built a seaweed farm and have harvested their own edible seaweed and use it as a resource for companies.
Social – people
We see that people are not very comfortable with change of things that have been going on for years and years. But people might be more aware of what they use and throw away thanks to these types of products. It might make people want to grow their own seaweed, be self-resourceful.
Environmental – planet
It may be a solution to reduce the plastic pollution, but we also see it as a way to use nature’s resources to prevent causing harm to the environment.
Also with concern over global warming, new methods for the thorough and efficient capture of CO2 are being sought out. The carbon dioxide that a carbon-fuel burning plant produces can feed into open or closed algae systems, fixing the CO2 and accelerating algae growth. Untreated sewage can supply additional nutrients, thus turning two pollutants into valuable commodities. Besides this, the agar-agar itself biodegradable so in terms of having it pollute the environment after usage is of no concern at all
1 Household plastic and carton (packaging) waste in comparison with agar-agar
2 Decomposition of plastic in comparison with agar-agar
Life cycle plastic vs agar-agar
Seaweed farm in Texel, here in The Netherlands, where they started harvesting edible seaweed
“Fragile sees shipping as a service and builds a product around it”
At first we tried to figure out how this product would turn out if it would be mass made and applied as a replacement for the materials we used now, like carton and plastic. But we quickly figured out that it’s not as easy as we’d think; multiple things would have to change in order to facilitate this for example transport methods would have to adapt to ensure safety and durability of these possible products. Instead we turned our heads to the more social domestic and personal use of it, leading us to the following research question.
Would people at home make and use their own agar agar as a packaging replacement (if provided with the right tools).
– We’ve asked two different target groups if they would make and use this as a replacement for plastic and carton packaging.
– Also if they do, would they go a step further and grow their own seaweed at home
We’ve learned that the generic target group would not bother; they believe that they are accustomed to the comfort of having everything ready-made. For example people in Poland are used to make their own things at home from bread to pasta. They do however believe that they would buy it if the agar-agar was already made into sheets for purchase. The downside of this of course is that there would be a preservative (chemical additive) added to the product to prolong the shelf life.
On the other hand those who do believe in living in a more sustainable world do believe they would try and make it but not sure they have the time and energy to grow enough of their own seaweed for what they would like to do. They also believe that maybe it is a possibility for more seaweed farms here at the coast of Netherlands.
As a result we do not see this kind work as for consumer usage.
We believe that this maybe is the start, the spark that is often needed once in a while, to open our minds and views on other possibilities. It would affect us not just environmentally better but also socially. Maybe this kind of solution does not need to be made into a mass production just yet, but we are truly confident that it serves it’s purpose.