Eating Cups Made Of Seaweed? Indonesian Start-Up Markets Edible Containers To Fight Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution has become such a problem in Indonesia that it inspired one entrepreneur to develop and sell edible containers made of seaweed, thus hoping to combat the worsening accumulation of plastic trash in the Asian nation. Evoware, the manufacturers of seaweed containers and packaging, is hoping to put a dent in the country’s plastic pollution problem and provide a product that is not only healthy for the customer but for the Indonesian environment as well.

Reuters reports that food and beverages retail businesses like that run by Ong Tek Tjan in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city, are turning to green technology to help stymie — and perhaps eventually eliminate — Indonesia’s dependence on plastic, a dependency that has generated mountains of environment-choking trash over the years. Tjan sells ice cream in cups made from edible seaweed, an alternative to packaging that would normally be cast off as trash that can instead be eaten by the customer. The environmentally friendly, biodegradable containers come in a variety of flavors that include peppermint and green tea.

Evoware was co-founded by David Christian after he became aware of the enormous amount of plastic waste being used and discarded into Indonesia’s environment, particularly in Jakarta, which is home to over 10 million people. That awareness motivated Christian to develop the idea of seaweed-based edible packaging.

“I saw how much plastic waste is produced here, which takes hundreds or thousands of years to degrade and contaminates everything,” Christian said about the plastics pollution.

The first product Evoware developed was a seaweed-based jelly cup. The company then expanded its line of containers and packaging, including a dissolvable sachets and packets for coffee and/or seasonings.

edible seaweed on cutting board

At present, Evoware is not in a position to actively counter the plastics market, given that the costs of its products are somewhat higher. They are also made by hand, a factor that, once replaced by mechanized production, will help drive the price of the seaweed containers down.

Indonesia, which boasts hundreds of thousands of miles of shallow coastline, is optimal for seaweed farming and produces 10 million tons of seaweed a year and is targeting production of 19 million tons by 2020.

Packaging made from seaweed (actually marine algae) shows promise as a biodegradable alternative to plastics in that there are some 11,000 species of the farm-able “plants,” according to The Seaweed Site. Seaweed is a common food source in Japan, China, and Korea, and in nations throughout the Indian Ocean. Seaweed is currently used in cosmetics, organic fertilizers, biochemicals, medicines, and other industrial uses. The versatile algae also appear in the form of extracts in foods such as chocolate milk, yogurt, health drinks, and even some beers and stouts.

Indonesia is home to some of the world’s most polluted rivers and the nation’s once beautiful beaches are littered with plastic waste. The country has joined a United Nations-led cleanup drive after receiving a rating as the world’s second-largest plastic marine polluter. The only nation producing more pollution than Indonesia is China.

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