A potato-based bottle that you can eat, compost or dissolve

Tomorrow Machine has developed a bottle that can be peeled like a fruit, is water resistant and dissolvable, and has a similar lifespan to its contents.

Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine has collaborated with juice company Eckes Granini to develop a bio-based bottle called GoneShells, which is made from potato and can be eaten, home-composted or dissolved under water when finished with.

While Tomorrow Machine has experience working with research institutes and designing new materials for the packaging industries, this is the first project where it has initiated the development of a packaging material from the start with an end goal of large-scale production. Goneshells is inspired a project undertaken by the studio just over ten years ago, called This Too Shall Pass.

Tomorrow Machine founder Anna Glansén says that this involved creating “an edible packaging with the same short lifespan as the food it contained”. Though a series of prototypes was produced, it was never intended for production due to “high material costs and complicated production methods”, she adds.

Despite setbacks with This Too Shall Pass, several companies expressed interest in the packaging and saw its potential. The studio decided it would try to develop a material with similar properties but at a lower cost and with fewer complications. The result is GoneShells, which makes use of existing manufacturing techniques and raw material “that matches existing packaging solutions in terms of price range”, according to Glansén.

Tomorrow Machine opted to work with Eckes Granini in the early stage of GoneShell’s development– which began around three years go – focussing on its eco-conscious brand of fresh juices and smoothies Brämhults. Glansén says that partnering with a food producer that could inform the project and “use the material for their products” was key to its success.

The studio thought it unreasonable that packaging lasts “years or even decades when the content inside goes bad after a few days or weeks”, says F&B Happy design director Maria Glansén. The core concept of GoneShells is that the lifespan of the packaging matches the lifespan of the contents inside, and so bypasses the conventional recycling system.

Standard recyclable packaging might be one way to move toward circular transition, but Maria Glansén argues that it may not be viable in many situations. For example, many countries “lack infrastructure for recycling or industrial composting”, she says. Through designing and manufacturing a material that offers multiple breakdown methods in a short space of time, Tomorrow Machine aims to “reduce the environmental impact” of packaging and prevent it from ending up in “nature, oceans or landfills”, Maria Glansén adds.

How does it work?

Taking its cues from nature, GoneShells was inspired by the way a fruit is protected by its peel. Once finished with, the bottle can be wound down in the same way thanks to its spiral-like structure. Then, it can be eaten, home composted or dissolved in a kitchen sink.

Maria Glansén says that one challenge was producing a material that could decompose quickly and easily, “while at the same time protecting the contents inside”. Since it can be broken down in water, Tomorrow Machine designed the bottle to have “a biodegradable barrier” which protects the interior and exterior of the packaging, she adds.

Maria Glansén explains that the decomposition process can only begin once the bottle is peeled and the water-resistant barrier is broken. This means that when it comes in contact with water “a reaction starts immediately”, breaking it down in around 20 minutes, she says. The time lapsed video below shows the potato-based material breaking down over a course of 17 minutes.

The project was supported by the strategic innovation programme BioInnovation, a joint venture by Vinnova, Formas and the Swedish Energy Agency. Further expertise came from the RISE Research Institute of Sweden and branding agency F&B Happy.

At this stage, Tomorrow Machine cannot reveal much about the production and material compound, except that it is made from potato and uses existing manufacturing techniques. GoneShells is an ongoing research project with plans for further developments and applications in the future.


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