About 41,000 people joined the London Marathon last May, whowere handed with edible seaweed pods for rehydration after reaching their23-mile point.
The goal was to replace about 200,000 plastic bottles withOoho 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 theamount of generated plastic waste during the run.
According to Skipping Rocks Lab, the seaweed pods can evenbe cheaper to produce than plastic bottles, and its thin membrane is edible andtasteless.
“What we use is the building blocks of seaweed,”said one of the startup’s founders, Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez in an interviewwith 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 amilestone … we are hoping we will demonstrate that it can be used at scale inthe 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 productat 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 innovativedesign engineering in London, where the two of them met. Their company’s goalis to “make plastic packaging disappear.”
Apart from the edible liquid pods, the Skipping Rocks Lab isalso working on biodegradable alternatives for cling films and one-time-useplastic lids of coffee cups.
The London-based startup is now working on machines that canproduce the pods at a large scale. The company plans on leasing the machines tobusinesses that want to use it for creating product packages, which is one wayto 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 massiveamounts of water and energy. According to the advocacy group Water FootprintNetwork, to create a 500 ml plastic bottle, it requires more than five litersof water.
The London Marathon came up with other ways to run asustainable event. During the run, compostable cups are used for energy drinks,while other water bottles used recycled plastics. Some plastic containers thatare discarded are also recycled after use.
London Marathon’s event director, Hugh Brasher, said theyaim to lead the way to sustainability.
Brasher added, “the changes and the trials we’reintroducing for this year have the potential to change how mass participationevents are delivered in future.”