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Plastic that's not plastic. Image: AMAM

Plastic that’s not plastic. Image: AMAM


The Inertia

Plastic is basically unavoidable. It blows around with the wind, collecting against fences and swirling through empty parking lots. It washes up on the beach and pokes out of the sand, and it floats in endless circles with the ocean’s currents. It’s in our houses, our packaging, our cars; it’s become a very large part of our life–and it’s become a very large problem. A Japanese company called AMAM is doing something that might just be the solution. They’re making plastic that’s not plastic.

Plastic is everywhere. I had a drink yesterday, and it came with a straw. The drink took me about a minute to finish, then I threw it away. That straw that I used for one minute will be kicking around in some form or another for the next 500 years, or something. That’s fucked.

AMAM is comprised of three designers. Kosuke Araki, Noriaki Maetani, and Akira Muraoka, worried about the amount of plastic we’re pumping out on a daily basis, decided that there had to be a better way. Using a substance found in seaweed called agar, they have come up with a material that, with a few tweaks, can work just as well as real plastic. The difference, of course, is that Agar Plasticity doesn’t wreak havoc on the environment–it’s entirely disposable and doesn’t require a long, filthy process to create. But it’s still a long way from replacing plastic.

Agar has long been found in Japanese foods. Normally sold dried, it’s melted down in boiling water and made into Japanese desserts. Surprisingly, the process of turning it into a packaging material is almost as easy. After the agar powder is dissolved in water and poured into a mold, it’s put in a freezer for a few days which turns the agar into a usable material. Then it’s thawed and dried out, and hopefully, in the future, will be turned into our main form of packaging.

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The designers have big dreams for the material. “We are ultimately dreaming of replacing disposable plastic products, such as shopping bags, amenity goods prepared at hotels and so forth, with agar-derived plastic,” Araki told Good.  They do, however, have a long way to go, but they’re hoping for help. “We believe in that possibility, but unfortunately that is beyond our ability—it’s too technical and chemical for us to achieve by ourselves. So we hope some researchers become interested in our project and get in touch with us for a possible collaboration.”

While it may be years, if at all, that we see Agar Plastics as a common household material, it is at least a step in the right direction.

 

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