An eco-friendly alternative to plastic has been created from agar, a jelly-like substance derived from marine algae. This seems to pave the way for parcels in the future to be packaged in seaweed-derived material instead of the toxic plastic bubble wrap.

The design group AMAM which innovated this new material, recently won the Lexus Design Award 2016 for its invention. Their state-of-the-art project is called Agar Plasticity.

This breakthrough project explores how agar, a gelatinous substance sourced from seaweeds or marine algae can be potentially used as a packaging material to replace plastic, which is harmful to the earth's environment and ecology.

"This is a bold and ambitious experiment, which aims to address one of the biggest pollution problems of our time. The designers have made tremendous progress during the course of the award cycle, particularly in devising a wide range of possible practical applications for the material," said Alice Rawsthorn, a member of this year's elite judging panel, Lexus Design Award 2016. "Their success in doing so gives us confidence in their ability to tackle the many challenges and complexities they will face in continuing the development of the project." 

AMAM is a Japanese group collectively formed in 2015 by three Japanese designers Kosuke Araki, Noriaki Maetani and Akira Muraoka. These three studied at the Tama Art University's Product Design Department.

For the purpose of their innovation, the team experimented with freezing and compressing agar, testing its different properties.

Agar is typically extracted from the seaweeds by boiling the plant material in water where it dissolves. When cooled, it turns into a gel-like form and when frozen or compressed, it turns solid.

It is these varying properties and its ability to transform from a soft state to a rigid one that makes agar the perfect substitute to replacing varied packaging materials ranging from Styrofoam to the common bubble wrap.

A Little Bit About Agar As A Substance

Agar is quite popular and has been vastly used in medical and scientific applications across the world. It further constitutes certain health benefits, and is also used as a food additive and thickener to improve the consistency in certain processed foods such as soups, sauces, jellies and ice creams.

Further, on an altogether different line of thought, the irony in this whole setting is that the very alternative to plastic (which is filling up our oceans and creating havoc to marine life) seems to have emerged from the oceans itself! It's interesting, the way nature works.

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