Algae Lake Erie, about 2.5 miles off the shore of Curtice, Ohio, in August 2014. AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File

A new company hopes to put record-breaking biomass blooms to more functional use in consumer goods.

This summer, for the eighth year in a row, residents of Qingdao, a Chinese coastal city, frolicked in a million tons of goopy green gunk. All over the world, algae is out of control.

Overabundant slicks can choke marine life and render once-potable water unusable. In 2014, a bloom of toxic algae in Lake Erie left nearly half a million residents of Toledo, Ohio, without clean water for drinking, cooking, or bathing. The blooms can also contain biotoxins that cause tingling, paralysis, and even death in humans and marine creatures, the Seattle Times noted. Jerry Borchert, Washington State’s marine biotoxin coordinator, told the paper that 2015 has seen record levels of dangerous algae:

“This has been a really bad year overall for biotoxins.”

Algae blooms are linked to warm water temperatures and high concentrations of phosphorous, largely the result of agricultural runoff. If that those trends continue, we’re poised to find ourselves with a bunch of slimy stuff overwhelming our shores. So what do we do with it?

BLOOM turns algae into foam. (BLOOM)

One new company—cheekily named BLOOM, after the algae itself—hopes to turn the waterlogged plants into functional products. They won't fashion finished goods themselves, says managing director Ron Falken. Instead, the Mississippi-based company partners with another organization to suck the water out of the biomass, so it retains less than 5 percent of its total moisture.

Then it’s sent through a microwave system to remove pathogens before being polymerized into flexible foam. The squishy result will be marketed to existing manufacturers, and could be used for soft shoes or yoga mats.

Falken hopes that the foam could reduce dependence on petrochemicals. “We’re trying to turn a negative into a positive,” he says.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Environment

    How City Failures Affect Trust in Climate Planning

    Cities may struggle to gain support for climate action plans because they haven’t dealt with infrastructure issues that regularly afflict residents.

  2. Groups of people look at their phones while sitting in Washington Square Park in Manhattan.
    Life

    How Socially Integrated Is Your City? Ask Twitter.

    Using geotagged tweets, researchers found four types of social connectedness in big U.S. cities, exemplified by New York, San Francisco, Detroit, and Miami.

  3. New Yorkers riding the subway.
    Transportation

    The Great Divide in How Americans Commute to Work

    We are cleaving into two nations—one where daily life revolves around the car, and the other where the car is receding in favor of walking, biking, and transit.

  4. Life

    American Migration Patterns Should Terrify the GOP

    Millennial movers have hastened the growth of left-leaning metros in southern red states such as Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. It could be the biggest political story of the 2020s.

  5. a photo of a woman on a SkyTrain car its way to the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia.
    Transportation

    In the City That Ride-Hailing Forgot, Change Is Coming

    Fears of congestion and a powerful taxi lobby have long kept ride-hailing apps out of transit-friendly Vancouver, British Columbia. That’s about to change.  

×