Editorial Feature

Edible Water Balls To Eliminate Plastic Bottles

The manufacturing and transportation process of water is particularly wasteful. It is estimated that over 17 million barrels of oil are required to produce plastic bottles each year, which is enough energy to power 1.3 million cars and 190,000 homes in a single year1. Additionally, it is estimated that 3 liters of water is used to package a single liter of bottled water.

Americans alone consume over 8.6 billion gallons of bottled water each year. The average American will use 167 water bottles, but will only recycle 38 of them2. There is an astonishing amount of evidence regarding the urgent necessity to either ensure that all plastics, specifically those used in water bottles, are recycled, or that the need for these products is completely eliminated.

While recycling water bottles is a feasible option, it is limited in its effectiveness because only PET bottles can be recycled. All other bottles will be discarded, resulting in just 25% of bottles that undergo recycling processes for future products and purposes3. Alternatives to using plastic bottles to consume water include installing a water filtration system into your home faucet. This can be a carbon or ceramic filter, and protects against a wide variety of contaminants potentially present within the water supply. These types of filters are useful, but it is important to note that tap water, especially from sources in the United States, is a perfectly safe alternative. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continuously regulates the cleanliness of the public water supply.

Despite these available alternatives, people will always desire an easily transportable way to drink water throughout the day. In an attempt to meet this demand and preserve the environment, constantly threatened by the use of plastic products, startup company Skipping Rocks Lab has developed Ooho, an “edible” drinking water product4.

This ball-like structure of water is wrapped in a transparent and tasteless membrane that maintains its spherical shape from sodium alginate, present in seaweed, and calcium chloride5. A block of ice is dipped into a solution comprised of these two natural chemical components, and the membrane forms around the water solution. Prior to consumption, individuals are able to remove the outermost layer of the Ooho ball to ensure the water is clean.

Ooho is a revolutionary product responding to every concern that surrounds the water and plastic crisis in our environment. However, there remain several disadvantages to this product that must be addressed prior it being made available to the public marketplace. One major downside of this product is that it only provides the consumer with a single gulp of water, compared to the average 16.9-ounce water bottle. Similarly, the delicate nature of the Ooho membrane prevents the consumer from tossing it into their bag or packing it away, as you would normally do.

One final disadvantage of the Ooho is that the seaweed membrane exhibits an unusual texture, said to require “some getting used to". Researchers from the Skipping Rocks Lab are working towards flavoring the membrane to make it more palatable for consumption purposes.6

Described as “the global solution to water and drinks on the go,” the Ooho was originally unveiled in 2014. It is a biodegradable and natural alternative that could eliminate the need for plastic bottles and packaging. While this product is not yet available for purchase by consumers, Skipping Rocks Lab hopes to introduce Oooho balls at major events, such as marathons and music festivals, in the near future.

References

  1. "Bottled Water Facts" - Ban the Bottle
  2. "10 Startling Facts About Bottled Water" - Ban the Bottle
  3. "Bottle Water Is Wasteful" - The Water Project
  4. "This 'Edible Water Bottle' Could Put an End to Plastic Packaging" - The Telegraph
  5. "Seaweed-based Water Pouch Aims to End the Need for Plastic Bottles" - Extreme Tech
  6. "Ooho Makes 'Eating' Water Possible! Edible Water Bottle Ball Aims To Replace Plastic Bottles" - Science Times

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Apoint

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