An Indonesian company is proving there are more uses for seaweed than serving it up as a crispy starter, by incorporating it into packaging.
Evoware is testing a variety of packaging applications for bioplastics made from seaweed farmed in Indonesian waters and some of the packaging is edible.
The Jakarta-based company is one of six recently recognised at the culmination of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Design Challenge for “new plastics”.
Currently, there more than 21 species of the high-protein sea plant used in Japanese and other Asian cuisines for everyday recipes, some of which can be traced back to the eighth century.
Edwin Aldrin Tan, Evoware co-founder and the organisation’s business development and financial advisor, said:
“Our mission is to decrease the use of plastic, especially in packaging. At the same time, we’d like to increase the seaweed livelihood in our country.”
Some of the edible wraps are being piloted for power protein bars, burgers and waffles. Others, such as the ones for dry foods including tea or instant noodles or cereal, are meant to dissolve quickly when liquid is introduced.
Others, notably those used for soaps or sanitary napkin packaging, will biodegrade over time.
Mr Tan, along with his co-founder David Christian, started experimenting with seaweed about two years ago, with the mission of replacing single-use cups. The result was an edible cup called Ello Jello, that the company began selling “bazaar to bazaar” to educate the marketplace about alternative approaches to disposable items.
The plant is a natural feedstock, rich in polysaccharides, and Evoware’s co-founders apparently chose it for several reasons, including Indonesia’s infamous stature as the world’s second-largest contributor to the ocean plastics waste problem (China is No. 1).
It will also help seaweed farmers in Indonesia improve their livelihood.
It takes one hectare of ocean to produce 40 tons of dry seaweed annually; that volume absorbs 20.7 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions during the cultivation process.
Mr Tan described the packaging being used to test its concept as tasteless and odourless (flavours can be added if desired.)
Evoware is just one of several companies experimenting with using seaweed as a bioplastics source for packaging.
Other organisations include AMAM, a Japanese design company working on a product which uses agar harvested from red marine algae; Algix, a research collaboration backed by Kimberly-Clark and France’s AlgoPack, which also has created seaweed cups.