We live in times where our future is rather uncertain. The quality of our future life and life of next
generations depends on the decisions that we take now. Responsible approach to design seems
to be the only option against the climate crisis and the problem of environmental pollution.
Currently, more and more designers feel the necessity to reflect about the type of materials used.
What are they made of? which processes are involved? What will happen to them after being
Plastic is a huge problem in relation to environmental pollution. The reason for that is its long
degradation time. After being thrown away, it needs a few hundred years to break down, and in
the mean time, not only does it stay deposited in the garbage dumps, but it lies virtually in every
place on the planet, including the seas and oceans floor.
Bioplastics can be an alternative to plastics. Currently, various types of bioplastics are produced:
PLA (polyactic acid), PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) or PHB. Their advantages are that they are
biodegradable in a short time, are not toxic, and their carbon footprint is neutral. Waste is often
used for their production, which is another advantage. But there are also disadvantages. PLA is
most often produced from beets, sugar cane or corn. Cultivation of these plants exploit precious
farmlands, so valuable from the food production point of view of. Pesticides are also often used
for their cultivation, which is extremely harmful to the environment.
Therefore, the best alternative seems to be: algae bioplastics. The production of bioplastics from
algae has a big potential recognised by major institutions such as the EU and the European
Commission. For example the European Commission project SEABIOPLAS is investigating the
possibility of using algae for large-scale bioplastics production. It foresees both environmental
and financial benefits.
In the industrial processing, seaweeds are broken down into prime factors - Polysaccharides:
ulvan, agar and alginic acid by means of drying, grinding and chemical treatment. The powdered
algae are thus a component of bioplastics. They can also undergo alcoholic fermentation to
obtain lactic acid and its polymer-polyactide, PLA, which is also used in the bioplastics
production. Research on the use of leftover production as food supplements as well as fish and
animal feed ingredients is still ongoing.
The project consists of bioplastic samples from agar, glycerin and water. Different colors were
achieved by adding earth pigments. The sheets are thin but durable and flexible. Bioplastics, in
addition to the obvious use as a substitute for plastic in packaging, or disposable products such
as plates or picnic trays, can be used for decorative purposes.