A POTENTIAL USEFULNESS OF AGAR FOR PACKAGING AND MORE
Concept, design, development and production:
Kosuke Araki, Noriaki Maetani, Akira Muraoka
Agar Plasticity is an ongoing material research project, in which we are exploring the potential usefulness of agar as one of alternatives to synthetic plastics. This project was submited to Lexus Design Award 2016 under the theme 'ANTICIPATION' and won the Grand Prix.
Goods are usually shipped wrapped in plastic materials. Once unwrapped, they soon become waste or are collected to be recycled. Considering the raw materials and energy for processing, this situation is undesirable.
In 2012, two hundreds and eighty eight million tons of plastics were produced worldwide, and more than 36% of materials used for packaging were plastics. But synthetic plastics do not biodegrade. This is the motivation for this project.
Anticipating effective and sustainable urilisation of natural resources has become more and more indispensable. To challenge this seemingly ignored problem, we began this project.
Agar is traditionally consumed as food in Japan, which is often used for making sweets. It is, also, used in scientific and medical fields worldwide.
It is sold in dried state in shapes of block, flake and powder. Block agar shows porous, feathery structure and is very light despite its volume. These feautures led to explore its possibility as packaging material.
Its raw material is seaweed - precisely, two kinds of red algae, which grow and is harvested worldwide, and agar can be extracted by boiling the red algae.
We have worked on three different material experiments. Firstly, pure agar powder by itself. Secondly, combining agar powder with extracted red algae fibre. Thirdly, by mixing agar powder with shell ash, which is also a waste product from the food industry.
All of those products are made using agar as the prime ingredient. After use, the agar products can be disposed of in an environmentally-friendly way.
When disposing of these, all of them can be utilised as a material improving waterretention of soil or as fertiliser with well water-retention, because agar absorbs and holds water very well, or should they end up in the ocean or landfill, they would not be harmful to the environment, to other lives. The agar simply biodegrades.