Chilean designer Margarita Talep has created an alternative packaging option. Using raw material extracted from algae, the alternative to single-use plastic packaging is entirely eco-friendly, sustainable and biodegradable.

According to Talep, an industrial designer with an interest in innovation and biochemicals, the material used to produce the new packaging only includes natural matter.

The basic components consist of a polymer (algae), water and colouring additives. The polymer is agar, a jelly-like substance that is extracted from red algae by boiling. The polymer is then added to water and dyed – using colourants from skins of fruit and vegetables. Blueberries, purple cabbage, beetroot and carrot to name a few.

Great for vegans

To make a material that closely resembles thin plastic, Talep boils the agar mixture to around 80 degrees Celsius, before transferring the molten liquid into a mould.

When the liquid drops to a temperature below 20 degrees Celsius, it takes on a gel-like consistency. Left to dry in a well-ventilated environment with a constant temperature, it becomes similar to paper or thin plastic.

Bag of dried pasta in biodegradable packaging.
Talep’s new packaging could be used for dried foods such as pasta.

Although initially designed to be used for dried food products, the flexible packaging can be used with many products that would traditionally have plastic based wrappers or packaging. Talep says that by altering the amounts of polymer and water, the consistency of the base liquid can be altered, thus making a firmer, more robust form of packaging.

Talep’s alternative packaging would biodegrade within 2-3 months depending on the conditions and the thickness of the product. If and it’s a big if this solution is brought to market and scalalble Talep’s alternative could be used to dramatically reduce single-use plastic packaging for grocery products worldwide.