The problem is simple: we’re ruining our oceans.

A pollution dump once thought to be ‘the size of texas’ is now said to be a ‘tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan’. Scientists have said a plastic soup of bottles and consumer products now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States. Stretching as far as the eye can see, the waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is flecked with bits and whole chunks of plastic that aren’t able to biodegrade. Instead, they break down into little digestible morsels for wildlife to consume.

“You go to subway and you buy a sandwich, and they always put it in a plastic bag. How long do you use it for? 1 minute? This plastic bag goes to the ocean and stays more than 20 years.” – Toxic Garbage Island, Vice

This means that the confetti of plastic that’s polluting the ocean is a huge problem not just for the billions of wildlife that perish each year, but also ourselves. Many of us eat fish from these waters, which means, disturbingly, plastic has now entered the food chain. Thankfully, this issue is more recognised than it once was, and this has called us to come up with new ways to tackle the problem.

Biodegradable packaging

Biodegradable items have naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and algae that allow disintegration. Take “Agar Plasticity”, for example. Japanese designers Kosuke Araki, Noriaki Maetani and Akira Muraoka created the earth-friendly alternative to plastic that uses agar, which is a jelly-like substance derived from algae. And earlier this year, an Icelandic product designer also created a prototype for agar water bottles that begin decomposing as soon as the water inside is consumed.

Edible ring pulls

Ever thought packaging could be made from barley and wheat ribbon? South Florida brewery, Saltwater, have done just that. Using by-products from their brewing process, they have created ring pulls on their 6-packs of cans which can be safely eaten by wildlife. For this, they’ve been recognised by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organisation.

They developed the idea using 3-D printers to create a working prototype, with help from an advertising agency called We Believers. The first batch were created with these 3-D print moulds, and now the brewery plans to produce 400,000 edible ring pulls per month. Costing 10-15 US cents per unit, the six-packs sell for $10, and is not only safe for fish and other marine life, but is also completely biodegradable.

Recycling plastic bottles

The Ecover ocean plastic project recycles plastic found in the ocean and turns them into brand new bottles. Earlier this year, Ecover and Plastic Whale launched a boat made out of 10,000 recycled plastic bottles found in canals in Amsterdam. Since then, they’ve gotten themselves loads of volunteers for plastic fishing trips. Apparently these volunteers collect enough plastic to create over 70,000 bottles to be sold across Europe.

All these companies are switched on to the damage packaging is causing the environment. Like us, they’re helping towards protecting nature and reducing the plastic sea that’s growing more toxic every year. This is the future of packaging: eco-friendly, biodegradable, recyclable and wildlife-friendly packaging that helps protect our environment.