In the UK and across Europe, we’re in
the middle of what promises to be a long and exceptionally hot summer. For
many, lazy days on the beach are the ideal summer dream, or for the more energetic,
maybe grabbing a board and hitting the surf. Surfing and surfers have an
intimate association with the environment, so it’s no surprise that many
surfboard producers embrace sustainable biobased materials, check out The
ECOBOARD Project for more information. Staying with surfboards, this article comes
on the back of tech developer Tesla, dipping its toes in the water of product
merchandising through the sale of surfboards. The company, working in
association with designer Matt Biolos, who shapes boards for World Surf League
Championship athletes, produced the board using biobased epoxy resin. The limited-edition
boards sold out in under a day, but here are some other biobased products
designed to make for a sustainable summer.
As the weather improves, many of us seek to get “beach body ready” by taking up more exercise. With this comes the need to stay hydrated, usually involving plastic water bottles. Obviously, be re-using one water bottle, that reduces the amount of plastic waste generated, but the bioeconomy allows us to go one better. UK-based company EuroBottle offer 100% biobased plastic sports bottles, which are made from Braskem’s I’m green biobased plastic.
But making bottles from biobased plastic is not the only solution: one London-based startup is going one step further – by making the bottles themselves edible. The Ooho product from Skipping Rocks Lab packages water in small balls made from an edible plastic-like material derived from seaweed. The product is designed to fit in the mouth, providing a drink of water without generating any plastic waste. It remains to be seen whether this will catch on over more traditional water bottles, but the innovation is undeniable.
It goes without saying that sunglasses are the essential fashion accessory during summer, and now thanks to American eyewear company MODO, there is now an entire range of sunglasses with biobased frames. The plastic in the frames is 63% biobased from vegetable oils. We’ve previously reported on biobased glasses frames, but this is the first time a full range has been released by a company – one of the main issues with biobased fashion items has been a lack of variety and choice: usually it is one product made by one company – it is a good sign that some choice is being injected into the market, and hopefully other areas will follow suit.
Next among the summer fashion essentials are sandals, and one particular set that caught our eye were the Zeffer flip-flops produced by Allbirds. Not only do they claim to be “the world’s most comfortable shoes”, but they are also made entirely from biobased and recycled materials. The soles are made from Ethylene-vinyl acetate derived from sugarcane, while the strap is made from recycled polyester and sugarcane-derived suede, and the nylon anchors are derived from castor bean oil. What also stands out about these shoes is their relative affordability: one barrier to biobased products penetrating the market has been how expensive they are. Allbirds’ shoes are still expensive, but less so than other biobased clothing items.
Protecting ourselves from the summer sun is a necessity, but this involves the use of sunscreen, which is a complex mixture of active ingredients, only some of which are biobased. However, thanks to continued biobased chemical innovation, increasing amounts of these sunscreen products are becoming biobased. Now, there is a 100% biobased sunscreen produced by Avasol, capable of sun protection factors competitive with non-biobased products. There is also a biobased aftersun available from Stream2Sea, for times when we forget to apply the sun cream (this author is particularly guilty in that department…)
The scene is set, the weather is perfect, the food is prepared, but now you need something to cook it on. For that, there is the CasusGrill, a 100% biobased disposable barbecue developed by a Danish company of the same name. The barbecue itself is made from cardboard and bamboo, meaning it can be disposed of by burning, or normally, as all of its component materials are biodegradable, except (obviously) the cooking stones it comes provided with.
However, even this latter point can be mitigated, as now there are even biobased alternatives to traditional barbecue lighting materials. Barbecue briquettes made from miscanthus are available from many outlets, and provide a more carbon-neutral alternative to coal, while Green Biologics’ GreenFlame is a fully biobased lighter fluid.
And while the meat is cooking on the barbecue, you are going to need somewhere to keep the potato salad, and in the near future that may be a biobased option too. Earlier this year, home appliance company Electrolux unveiled the prototype of the world’s first biobased fridge. All of the visible plastic parts are made from biobased plastic provided by Natureworks, and Electrolux claims this results in an 80% decrease in the fridge’s carbon emissions. While not commercially available yet, this announcement of such a prototype bodes well for the future.
It’s typical, isn’t it? Endless rain over the winter has turned your lawn into a quagmire, so you’ve re-seeded it, and just as the weather starts to turn, you’ve a well-manicured, vivid green lawn again. Fast forward two months, and the summer heatwave has reduced that lawn to a dry yellow shadow of its former self, the hosepipe ban stops you watering it, and all of your efforts seem to have been in vain. However, there is now a 100% biobased solution to this problem, thanks to US company SYNLawn, whose SYNRenew artificial grass is made from 100% biobased polyethylene from sugarcane. We’ve reported on this product before, amused by the fact that artificial grass has been made from actual grass, but for those looking for a minimum maintenance lawn on which to enjoy the summer, SYNRenew is the leading product.
Perhaps not this summer, but in future years, we may be jetting off to our favourite holiday destinations in a much more sustainable manner. The aviation industry is known as one of the world’s biggest polluters, but work is slowly happening to reduce aviation emissions. Unlike road transport, commercial aviation is several decades away from effective zero-emission power such as hydrogen or electric, and so must rely on biofuels to decarbonise. The effects are marked, and several airlines are already trialling biofuels, and so hopefully our future jetsetting adventures will be more sustainable thanks to the bioeconomy.
With the summer comes festival season, where crowds of revellers will be donning colourful costumes. The staple ingredient of a good festival costume is, of course, glitter, but from a sustainability perspective, it’s a nightmare. The material has come under fire for its contribution to the microplastic problem – the glitter particles are small enough to make their way into water courses and can be harmful to marine life. Fortunately, thanks to increasing awareness of this problem, sustainable glitter brands are starting to emerge. The UK’s Clamour glitter is made entirely from wood pulp, and is also certified as biodegradable. However, it should be noted that it is only biodegradable through industrial composting, which does nothing to solve the problem of glitter that inevitably ends up in the environment (it really does get everywhere!), and requires the glitter users to collect and correctly dispose of the glitter, which is no mean feat in of itself.
What day at the beach would be complete without the classic bucket and spade combination? Biobased plastic versions of these toys have been around since 2014, making them among the older developments on this list, but unfortunately, the biobased and biodegradable beach toys made by company Zoe B, appear to no longer be in production, and no other company has put out a similar product. This older product is, however, a demonstration that the technology to produce biobased toys is very much available. For toys that are going to be used so close to the oceans, it was also essential that the plastic be degradable in marine environments, and the claim by the company was this would take 2-3 years: significantly less than the degradation time for conventional plastics.