Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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

Science
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:

Radiation-contaminated water tanks and damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Feb. 25, 2016 in Okuma, Japan. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Japan will release radioactive wastewater from the failed Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, the government announced on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier, aka the doomsday glacier, is seen here in 2014. NASA / Wikimedia Commons / CC0

Scientists have maneuvered an underwater robot beneath Antarctica's "doomsday glacier" for the first time, and the resulting data is not reassuring.

Read More Show Less
Trending
Journalists film a protest by the environmental organization BUND at the Datteln coal-fired power plant in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany on April 23, 2020. Bernd Thissen / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Lead partners of a global consortium of news outlets that aims to improve reporting on the climate emergency released a statement on Monday urging journalists everywhere to treat their coverage of the rapidly heating planet with the same same level of urgency and intensity as they have the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read More Show Less
Airborne microplastics are turning up in remote regions of the world, including the remote Altai mountains in Siberia. Kirill Kukhmar / TASS / Getty Images

Scientists consider plastic pollution one of the "most pressing environmental and social issues of the 21st century," but so far, microplastic research has mostly focused on the impact on rivers and oceans.

Read More Show Less
A laborer works at the site of a rare earth metals mine at Nancheng county, Jiangxi province, China on Oct. 7, 2010. Jie Zhao / Corbis via Getty Images

By Michel Penke

More than every second person in the world now has a cellphone, and manufacturers are rolling out bigger, better, slicker models all the time. Many, however, have a bloody history.

Read More Show Less