New seaweed-based material could eliminate plastic in packaging

[Japan] Japanese design firm AMAM is developing a more environmentally friendly way to package goods without using plastic. Called Agar Plasticity, the product is derived from agar, a gelatinous material that can be readily found in red marine algae. The design team’s project is one of four finalists for the 2016 Lexus Design Award , which is contest that pairs each team with a design mentor to create a prototype for Milan Design Week.

Traditionally consumed as food in Japan, seaweed-derived agar has been used in scientific and medical applications across the global. Because of its porous, lightweight, feathery structure the team took notice of these features and have been exploring its possibility as packaging material.

“Agar can be extracted by boiling specific kinds of red algae and then dehydrating the soup,” said the group. “For a soft cushioning structure, it’s frozen, for stiff film-like state, it’s compressed. Because agar is also moldable, it was proposed not only as a cushioning material, but also as a packaging material.”

The team behind AMAM, Kosuke Araki, Noriaki Maetani, and Akira Muraoka, are all designers, and partnered up last year to create things outside their current areas of interest.

“We are currently designing a box-like package, which has a cushioning structure derived from the freezing process for delicate objects (like a fragrance bottle), cushioning sheets for wrapping, and nugget-like cushioning,” Araki told GOOD magazine in an exclusive interview. “We are ultimately dreaming of replacing disposable plastic products, such as shopping bags, amenity goods prepared at hotels and so forth, with agar-derived plastic.”

AMAM is also exploring the possibility of agar-derived plastic material. After use, the products can be disposed of in an eco-friendly way. The material can improve the water-retention property of soil, and should it make its way into the oceans, it would not pose a threat to marine lives.


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