Turning Problematic Sea Algae into Replacement for Plastic in Common Products

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After a Finnish scuba diver saw how harmful out-of-control algae blooms could be to the marine environment below their green clouds, she founded a refining company that harvests the algae and turns it into all kinds of products.

Certain components of algae have similarities to petroleum-based chemicals, and this similarity allows for the replication of existing production techniques for cosmetics, artificial textiles, detergents, packaging materials, fertilizer as well as a variety of different foodstuffs.

Mari Granström enjoyed scuba diving in her native Baltic Sea, until nitrogen and phosphorous nutrients from fertilizers used in the farming industries, washed from the fields into the rivers, and then from the rivers to the sea, began to regularly create “eutrophication” or vast blooms of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae.

Similar eutrophication events were going on in the Caribbean, Granström learned, which choke the oxygen and light from the waters underneath the floating algae, and damage marine ecosystems in the same way giant volcanic ash clouds have damaged terrestrial ecosystems in the past by blotting out the sun.

Granström, a bio-chemist by trade, started Origin by Ocean (ObO) as a means to combat this problem and offer the world more

“We wanted to do something to help at both ends of the process, upstream and downstream, as it were—cleaning the seas, but also monetizing a change in consumer behavior,” said Granström, who adds that anyone can make a difference in solving this problem simply by changing their consumption choices.

Their special technology vacuums up the algae and separates it from the water.

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