The fast-food industry consumes massive volumes of single-use plastics every year – and researchers calculate it often takes 450 years for plastic to decompose after serving human needs for an average of just 20 minutes.
Swedish designer Pontus Törnqvist has created an alternative to conventional plastic using potatoes – an invention that earned him the James Dyson Award in 2018.
Törnqvist’s goal is to see products made from natural ingredients that – when they are no longer needed – can return to nature sustainably, leaving no trace behind.
Biodegradable potato plastic contains only potato starch and water. First, the exact amount of both ingredients is mixed together and heated until the mixture becomes thicker. Then it is put into the mould where heat is used to dry it, with toughness and thickness depending on the amount of mixture poured into the mould.
With completely organic ingredients, potato plastic can break down into natural nutrients for the soil within two months.
The potato plastic can be used for eating utensils, condiment bags, and can also replace normal plastic straws.
“My aim with this project was that we should question the way that we are using and producing plastic, and therefore illustrate an example of a material that could work as a substitute material for it,” said designer Pontus Törnqvist.
“This material is made of what comes from our earth, and it can later on just as well end up in the soil without any risks to nature.
“I believe that achieving big changes in society comes with taking small steps in the right direction. The products that are made from this material should not be used more than one time, as a statement to question the capacity of today’s disposable products.”