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The recently concluded edition of the London Marathon saw the number of participants increase from 41,003 in 2018 to 42,906. But one race-related figure did show a decrease: the number of plastic water bottles used.

In a move that could provide an environmental-friendly alternative to plastic, race organizers replaced the plastic bottles handed out to runners past Mile 23 with edible sachets containing a Lucozade energy drink. Runners could swallow the sachets or discard them after consuming the energy drink. These edible sachets can biodegrade in four-six weeks, while a plastic water bottle takes approximately 450 years to biodegrade completely.

The sachets, called Oohos, are manufactured by London-based sustainable packaging start-up Skipping Rocks Lab. The sachet is made from Notpla, described by the company as a “revolutionary" material made by combining brown seaweed and plants.

This particular type of seaweed can grow up to 1m per day and biodegrades naturally in a matter of weeks. It also doesn’t need fertilizers or freshwater to grow.

The distribution of more than 30,000 edible Ooho seaweed sachets was part of the London Marathon’s plan to bring down the number of plastic bottles used. According to the official website, the goal was to achieve a reduction of more than 215,000 plastic bottles on the course compared to 2018 , when around 760,000 bottles were distributed.

The use of compostable cups was part of this strategy. According to UN data, one million plastic drinking water bottles are purchased every minute, while up to five trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide annually.

Researchers in India have also been working on their own variant of edible water orbs. Bengaluru-based biotechnology researcher Richard Gomes has created an “edible water orb" from natural materials, according to an August Mint report. The report added that these orbs are made from an open-source recipe using a process called reverse spherification.

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