WooBox uses two old-school materials to redesign an eco-friendly container for transporting fresh food.
Styrofoam, the common name for the more accurately called expanded polystyrene, is used in a huge variety of applications, from consumer packaging to industrial transport, and like the rest of the plastics family, is both insanely useful and ridiculously polluting at the same time. Its cheap cost, ease of forming by injection, extrusion, vacuum, and molds, and light weight makes it a great material for mass-produced items, but at a high environmental cost.
"Styrofoam is resistant to photolysis or the breaking down of materials by photons originating from a light source. Researchers claim that it may take anywhere between 500 and one million years for styrofoam to naturally decompose. So, when you've got a large amount of a harmful material and no viable way of getting rid of it, what happens to all the styrofoam produced around the world? It gets dumped into landfills." - No More Styrofoam
With plastic particles now being found everywhere from in sea salt to remote Arctic regions, our culture should be well past the point of knowing it needs better alternatives, and it needs them yesterday. And although advances have been made in plant-based plastics and biodegradable and reusable materials, and in banning single-use plastic bags in some areas, we've got a long way to go still. Alternative materials need to become not just optional, but the standard, because we're literally covering the planet with plastic, and only a small fraction of it is ever recycled.
A startup out of Serbia believes it has found one sustainable alternative to the ubiquitous Styrofoam cooler and shipping container, and its product, the WooBox, is not only 100% recyclable, but also puts a 'waste' material to good use, and uses a decidedly low-tech insulation method.
The WooBox containers, which are geared initially toward replacing expanded polystyrene foam in the fresh food delivery industry, are made with wood exteriors that feature rails that slot together for transport, while the interior insulation is made from the "leftovers" of the wool industry. Wool is a remarkable natural insulator, and according to the company, some 70% of the wool produced by the industry isn't up to the standards to make clothing from, and is essentially a waste material, so by creating an industrial product from this wool that takes advantage of wool's strength but isn't reliant on its cosmetic features, it puts more of that
waste resource to work.
As pointed out in the videos, WooBox is much more costly than a similar polystyrene product -- some 30 times as expensive -- but the fact that they can be reused many times, and can then be completely recycled at the end of life, is a huge step up in materials, and could very well work out to be economically beneficial as well. According to the company, the team also plans to plant trees to offset or replace the wood used in manufacturing the boxes, which is expected to take place "in a small town near Loznica, Serbia."
WooBox has taken to Indiegogo to crowdfund the serial production of the first product and get a pilot project up and running, and backers at the $80 level can be the first to own this eco-friendly cooler alternative (30kg capacity, with a volume of 21 liters) for use at home. Find out more about the project at No More Styrofoam.