It's a novel idea, but Ooho!, an edible water ball, probably won't be replacing plastic water bottles any time soon. Ooho! is the brainchild of the scientists at Skipping Rock Labs, and aims to reduce the use (and waste) of plastic used in traditional water bottles through its edible hydration format.
The company's website states that the point of its impact is:
To stop 1 billion plastic bottles reaching the ocean every year & to stop 300 million kg of CO2 from ever being emitted.
The biodegradable container is made of algae and is completely edible, letting the consumer choose to pop the water filled sphere into their mouth or break the algae and consume its contents separately.
While an edible water ball is an interesting idea, and could provide merits for an event where participants need no-hassle hydration, such as a marathon or an outdoor music festival, there are some concerns about its viability.
- Packaging - The company explains in a video that the water balls could potentially be sold in a pliable outer packaging. It's unclear what this packaging would be made of. Would it be made of plastic? If so, it would certainly contradict the company's goal of creating "waste-free alternatives to plastic bottles."
- Distribution - If the outer packaging were some form of flexible packaging, or algae, wouldn't the water balls be at risk of being popped accidentally during distribution? It seems if consumers can easily break the outer algae layer to get to the contents inside, then a little too much pressure might pop all of the water balls. A rigid container might be the least risky solution, and yet that container would probably be made of plastic.
- Hygiene - Think about it. If the edible water balls are placed in a bin, or on a tray, for concert-goers or runners to grab as they pass by, it seems highly unlikely that they are only touching one water ball. Germs likely will contaminate the other water balls, so when it gets down to the last few available, they may become a petri dish of microorganisms. I'll take a water bottle with a sealed lid, thank you.
Plastic packaging pollution is definitely an issue worth working to solve, and there are already plastic bottle alternatives that seem much more feasible. Boxed Water Is Better or JUST Water are paperboard options and aim to be more environmentally friendly. The cartons easily can be sold in stores and consumers immediately will recognize them as reliable sources of water. If I saw a clear blob on a shelf marked as water, that purchase will feel a little more risky.
I might be a little more optimistic than this BGR writer about the possibilities of the edible water ball being more than just a viral sensation, but I have to agree that with all of the drawbacks that seem to exist, they're not going to be replacing water bottles any time soon.