About 41,000 people joined the London Marathon last May, who were handed with edible seaweed pods for rehydration after reaching their 23-mile point.
The goal was to replace about 200,000 plastic bottles with Ooho seaweed capsules, made by a London-based startup, the Skipping Rocks Lab. It’s just one of the many ways the event organizers have thought to reduce the amount of generated plastic waste during the run.
According to Skipping Rocks Lab, the seaweed pods can even be cheaper to produce than plastic bottles, and its thin membrane is edible and tasteless.
“What we use is the building blocks of seaweed,” said one of the startup’s founders, Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez in an interview with CNN. “We remove all the green stuff and the smelly stuff,” Garcia Gonzalez added.
The seaweed pods decompose within six weeks if not eaten; a massive leap ahead from plastic bottles that take 450 years or more to biodegrade. At the London Marathon, it was the first time the pods were used in a humongous endurance race, involving thousands of people.
According to Garcia Gonzalez, “the London marathon is a milestone … we are hoping we will demonstrate that it can be used at scale in the future.”
These seaweed pods can hold liquids like water or energy drinks, perfect for people on the move like marathoners, or attendees of music festivals.
“Espresso Martinis have been the most popular product at festivals, where eating the packaging is also part of the experience,” said Pierre-Yves Paslier, one of the founders of the Skipping Rocks Lab.
Partners Garcia Gonzalez and Paslier studied innovative design engineering in London, where the two of them met. Their company’s goal is to “make plastic packaging disappear.”
Apart from the edible liquid pods, the Skipping Rocks Lab is also working on biodegradable alternatives for cling films and one-time-use plastic lids of coffee cups.
The London-based startup is now working on machines that can produce the pods at a large scale. The company plans on leasing the machines to businesses that want to use it for creating product packages, which is one way to solve the pressing environmental issue of plastic use.
Innovative solutions to reduce the globe’s plastic waste is highly needed now more than ever. Over the years, recycling has done little to reduce the amount of plastic waste. In fact, only 9% of 8,300 million metric tons of plastic produced have been recycled, while 12% is burnt in incinerators. 79% of the plastics produced goes to landfills or discarded improperly, some reaching the ocean.
Additionally, producing plastic bottles demands massive amounts of water and energy. According to the advocacy group Water Footprint Network, to create a 500 ml plastic bottle, it requires more than five liters of water.
The London Marathon came up with other ways to run a sustainable event. During the run, compostable cups are used for energy drinks, while other water bottles used recycled plastics. Some plastic containers that are discarded are also recycled after use.
London Marathon’s event director, Hugh Brasher, said they aim to lead the way to sustainability.
Brasher added, “the changes and the trials we’re introducing for this year have the potential to change how mass participation events are delivered in future.”