From Pond Scum to Food Bowl, Dutch Designers 3D-Print Algae Into Everyday Products

You might not think of pond scum as something that's good for the environment, but Dutch designers have developed a bioplastic made from algae that they hope could replace petroleum-based plastics.

According to Dezeen, Eric Klarenbeek and Maartje Dros have been cultivating live algae and processing it into material that can be used for 3D printing. This algae polymer can be churned into everyday items, from shampoo bottles to bowls to trash bins. 

Their innovation can currently be seen at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam as part of its Change the System exhibition.

Klarenbeek and Dros have also 3D-printed from other types of biopolymers, such as mycelium, potato starch and cocoa bean shells. One day, the duo hope to set up a local network of biopolymer 3D printers, which they have dubbed the "3D Bakery."

"Our idea is that in the future there will be a shop on every street corner where you can 'bake' organic raw materials, just like fresh bread," Klarenbeek told Dezeen. "You won't have to go to remote industrial estates to buy furniture and products from multinational chains. 3D printing will be the new craft and decentralized economy."

Klarenbeek believes that the 3D Bakery could be a reality within 10 years.

The designers tout that their project is one way to help stop the planet's unsustainable consumption of fossil fuels.

"All around the world in recent decades enormous amounts of fossil fuels—materials that lay buried in the ground for millions of years—have been extracted," they said. "In this relatively brief period, a vast amount of carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere, with damaging consequences. It is therefore important that we clean the CO2 from the atmosphere as quickly as possible and this can be done by binding the carbon to biomass."

Klarenbeek and Dros researched algae for three years with Wageningen University, Salga Seaweeds, Avans Biobased Lab and other institutions in the Netherlands. They have since established a research and algae production lab at the Luma Foundation in Arles, France.

The pair pointed out that their creations do more than just replace plastic, as algae can also suck up carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that drives global climate change.

"Algae is equally interesting for making biomass because it can quickly filter CO2 from the sea and the atmosphere," they said. "The algae grow by absorbing the carbon and producing a starch that can be used as a raw material for bioplastics or binding agents. The waste product is oxygen, clean air."

Learn more about the innovation here:

Show Comments ()

Trump Administration Offers 77 Million Acres in Gulf of Mexico to Oil Industry

The Trump administration is holding the biggest offshore oil and gas lease auction in U.S. history Wednesday, offering all 77 million acres of unleased, available federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

The sale comes as administration officials seek to rescind drilling safety rules approved after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, reduce royalties paid by oil companies, and expand offshore drilling into every ocean in the country.

Keep reading... Show less
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt. Mitchell Resnick

Pruitt to Restrict Use of Scientific Data in EPA Policymaking

In the coming weeks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is expected to announce a proposal that would limit the type of scientific studies and data the agency can use in crafting public health and environmental regulations.

The planned policy shift, first reported by E&E News, would require the EPA to only use scientific findings whose data and methodologies are made public and can be replicated.

Keep reading... Show less
Mity / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

20% of U.S. Diets Responsible for Almost Half of Country’s Food-Related Emissions, Study Finds

If you've been deliberating about going vegetarian, a study published Tuesday in Environmental Letters might give you the final push.

Keep reading... Show less
Sea Shepherd small boat assists the Liberian Coast Guard to chase down the F/V Hai Lung. Sea Shepherd

Notorious Toothfish Poacher Arrested by Liberian Coast Guard, Assisted by Sea Shepherd

A notorious Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish poaching vessel, famous for plundering the Antarctic, was arrested on March 13 in waters belonging to the West African state of Liberia by the Liberian Coast Guard, with assistance from the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd.

The F/V Hai Lung, known to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) by its previous name "Kily," was transiting through Liberian waters when it was boarded and inspected by a Liberian Coast Guard team working alongside Sea Shepherd crew on board Sea Shepherd's patrol vessel M/Y Sam Simon.

Keep reading... Show less

7 Must-See Films at the 42nd Cleveland International Film Fest

It's that time, again!

EcoWatch is proud to be a media partner of the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF), now celebrating its 42nd year. This year, EcoWatch is honored to be sponsoring Anote's Ark. This documentary spotlights Kiribati, a small remote island facing devastating effects due to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: 'We have approved Bayer's plans to take over Monsanto because the parties' remedies, worth well over €6 billion, meet our competition concerns in full.' EU Commission Twitter

EU Approves Controversial Bayer-Monsanto Merger

The European Union approved Bayer's takeover of Monsanto, a major hurdle in the $66 billion merger that would create the world's largest integrated seed and pesticide conglomerate.

The European Commission said the German chemical-maker's takeover of the St. Louis-based agribusiness giant is "conditional on an extensive remedy package, which addresses the parties' overlaps in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture."

Keep reading... Show less
Todd Porter & Diane Cu

How Much Daily Activity You Need to Burn off 9 Healthy (But High-Calorie) Foods

By Luke Doyle

A healthy lifestyle is fueled by nutrient-rich foods that give your body the energy it needs. But some of these foods come with high calorie counts and the "healthy" label doesn't mean it's okay to consume unlimited amounts of them.

Keep reading... Show less
Marine debris laden beach in Hawaii. NOAA Marine Debris Program / Flickr

Ocean Plastic Projected to Triple Within Seven Years

If we don't act now, plastic pollution in the world's oceans is projected to increase three-fold within seven years, according to a startling new report.

The Future of the Sea report, released Wednesday for the UK government, found that human beings across the globe produce more than 300 million metric tons of plastic per year. Unfortunately, a lot of that material ends up in our waters, with the total amount of plastic debris in the sea predicted to increase from 50 million metric tons in 2015 to 150 million metric tons by 2025.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!