UMI is a compostable organic packaging for sushi retailers aimed to address the issue of plastic waste in the ocean.
Concerned about the implications of using so much plastic, what is the future of plastic? UMI is made from biodegradable material- algae and question the role of packaging. Can it function more than its intended use? As Australians are opting for healthier fast food cuisines such as sushi, UMI is designed to be on-the-go and environmental friendly. Because of the natural property of algae, UMI also function as compost activator once disposed, speeding up the breakdown of waste into fertilisers.
As UMI is made from algae, which derived from seaweeds, according to aquaculture researcher (Nicholas Paul, 2017) massive farms of Queensland’s coast could be growing 70 tonnes of seaweed each year for the international market. In addition to that, seaweeds are the fastest growing plants on earth, 48% of global seaweed cultivated is being used to extract polysaccharides (algae).
According to Eating out Australia report 2017, Australians are opting for healthier cuisines. Popularity is growing for Japanese cuisine particularly due to its health rating. Thus, the proposal is designed to packaged sushi roll for sushi retailers as an initial prototype.
UMI tries to solve the consequences of convenience culture by integrating with City of Melbourne Waste & Resource Recovery Strategy 2030. The councils are implementing a “FOGO” system which collects food organics and garden organics in a single bin, meaning the UMI packaging can be directly disposed into the system as it is 100% organic material. Once it reaches the system, it becomes a compost activator to speed up the break down of organic waste into rich fertilisers due to the natural property of algae which is rich in nitrogen and the ability to absorb and retain water.
In April 2018, the Federal Environment Minister, Josh Frydenberg announced that “By 2025 or earlier, all Australian packaging in Australia will be reusable, compostable or recyclable.”
UMI started out as a packaging for on-the-go sushi and now see the potential of it being the packaging of the future for a broad range of consumer goods. The material see potential to package dry goods such as seeds, nuts, spices, pasta, lollies and chocolates.
The algae material is tested on decay rate and algae to water ratio. The results show that the material will begin to shrink and degrade in room temperature over a duration of days. This means the packaging have the potential to inform consumer about the freshness level of the food packaged in it based on the shrink level.
The pattern on the packaging is inspired from origami and “Wagara”, a Japanese Art which look into systematically placement of designs to create a pattern and is made with the help of digital technology.