The organisers of the London Marathon made this year’s event on April 28 2019 a plastic-free one as marathon runners were given small edible sachets filled with a sports drink instead of water in a plastic bottle when they reached mile 23.
In the past, the organisers of the marathon had to deal with over 40,000 runners quenching their thirsts with drinks contained in single-use plastic bottles. With the introduction of pod-sized sachets, called Ooho, made from Notpla, a material made from seaweed and plants, produced by Skipping Rocks Lab, the organisers planned to replace 200,000 single-use plastic bottles with Oohos. These transparent bite-sized seaweed pouches will release the liquid contained within them when bitten and the entire sachet can be eaten as they are made entirely from seaweed and plants. This seaweed film can also be discarded entirely if not consumed as they will complete biodegrade within weeks.
Over 919,000 single-use plastic bottles were used in the London Marathon in 2018. In 2019, the organisers handed out over 200,000 Oohos filled with sports drink with 700,000 plastic bottles handed to contestants, to be collected back after the fact for recycling.
Made from the building blocks of brown seaweed, seaweed grows up to one metre per day and doesn’t compete with food crops. It doesn’t need fresh water or fertilizer and contributes to the de-acidifying of the ocean.
Besides its use as a replacement of plastic bottles, Skipping Rockets Lab is also using Notpla to produce nets, heat sealable films which can be used to package food or be used as wrappers and sachets for non food products such as nails, screws or hardware.
With the proliferation of marathons in Asia and around the world, the emergence of Oohos and Notpla is a good step towards reducing the use of single-use plastics in sports events around the world.