As runners at the London Marathon dashed past mile 23, they were handed a refreshment in some unexpected packaging. Small round spheres called Ooho filled with Lucozade Sport Orange were placed in the hands of runners for a convenient, eco-friendly alternative to plastic water bottles. Made from a seaweed-based packaging, Ooho was first piloted at the London Marathon in 2017 to explore sustainable packaging.
The 2019 London Marathon was Ooho's biggest event to date and its success proves how plastic alternatives can be both environmentally friendly and functional. Ooho has come a long way since its start in 2013. The product was created by Skipping Rocks Lab, the brainchild of two design engineering students at the Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art in the UK.
After testing the product at running events and festivals, they began expanding their manufacturing technology. Now, Ooho is poised to go global. Their participation in the London Marathon was part of the organization's goal to bring the number of plastic bottles used last year down from 760,000 to 215,000 in 2019. Ooho was just part of the overall solution, as compostable cups were also handed out at different drink stations.
What exactly is Ooho made of? NOTPLA is the name of the substance developed by Skipping Rocks Lab. It's made from brown seaweed—something that grows 3.2 feet per day, doesn't compete with food crops, and actively contributes to making oceans less acidic. The substance also biodegrades naturally in 4 to 6 weeks and doesn't contain any microplastics.
As the startup continues to expand, they're thinking beyond Ooho pods and are developing other products. Nets, heat sealable films, and sachets are just some of the items on the horizon.