Biodegradable energy gel packets
TRAIL runners are generally pretty good about minimising the use of disposable plastics. A lot of them run with soft flasks, hydration packs and collapsible, reusable silicon cups – all of which help to cut down on single-use plastics. Well-organised trail running races rarely have disposable cups at checkpoints and water stations, and competitors are encouraged to bring their own cutlery for food at finish lines.
Unfortunately, they’re less good about gels and bars. As much they try to clean up after themselves, a number of those plastic-coated foil wrappers inevitably find their way on to the sides of trails and into bushes, posing not just an eyesore but also an environmental hazard.
Lizzie Wright, an industrial designer, hopes her invention can alleviate the problem and represent a step towards a more sustainable solution. She has developed a 100% edible and biodegradable energy gel package, named Gone, which breaks down in a matter of days with the help of rain and insects. The retail packaging that the gel packets come in is also completely compostable, made from paperboard and finished with laser-etched bioplastic.
Eventually, she settled on a thin, flexible, and translucent material, which she developed from her art studio at school. Then she came up with the actual design of the package, and worked to make their appearances “regular and perfect each time”..
One challenge Wright has faced with her biodegradable energy gel packets is their short shelf lives relative to the conventional plastic-coated foil packets. This may be a disadvantage, Wright explained, but it actually encourages more conscious consumption habits.
She also recognises that bioplastics aren’t a magic bullet to our plastic crisis. For example, many compostable plastics still have to be treated and disposed of properly. And the growing popularity of bioplastics may in turn perpetuate a disposable culture.
A convenient, well-designed alternative, like her biodegradable Gone packaging, offers users a feasible choice, she explained. “Obviously, bioplastic is not the perfect solution,” Wright added. “But it’s a renewable solution, which is better.”