Climate Action

5 unusual ways seaweed is being used to tackle the climate crisis

Seaweed.

Around 70% of the world’s oxygen is produced by seaweed, but its capabilities don't end there. Image: Unsplash/Wolfgang Hasselmann

Tom Crowfoot
Writer, Forum Agenda
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Climate Action?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Innovation is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Innovation

This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate
  • Companies around the world are making the most of an unexpected tool in the world’s fight to tackle the climate crisis – seaweed.
  • From sofas to straws, this type of marine algae is being used in a variety of innovative ways to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The World Economic Forum’s UpLink platform provides an ecosystem for innovative companies – like some of these seaweed entrepreneurs – to present ideas that can help to change the world for the better.

Seaweed – it can be slimy around the legs on a swim and gives off a rotting stench on shorelines that can dampen the mood of any beach day.

We’ve all had our reasons to grumble about it. But did you know this humble algae could be an incredibly useful tool for tackling the climate crisis?

Most of the world’s oxygen is produced by seaweed – around 70% – including phytoplankton, kelp and algal plankton. Beyond its ability to absorb carbon dioxide, seaweed also reduces water pollution by absorbing excess toxins, according to the Marine Conservation Society.

Here are five different ways the world is harnessing its power and turning this underwater “villain” into an unlikely hero in the race to save our planet.

1. Seaweed-stuffed sofas

In 2021, the manufacture of furniture produced 988,700 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK alone.

Furniture foam – the filling for your sofa derived from petroleum – is one major source of emissions in the industry.

Agoprene, a Scandinavian start-up, is seeking to change that. The organization is creating furniture foam made from seaweed and other ocean biomass, meaning it is 100% free of petrochemicals.

Agoprene's seaweed foam, a sustainable alternative for use in furniture.
Agoprene's seaweed foam is a sustainable alternative for use in furniture. Image: Agoprene

2. Seaweed straws

Globally, we produce around 430 million tonnes of plastic a year, with just 9% of this being successfully recycled.

A number of countries have taken steps in recent years to tackle this issue of single-use plastic pollution, of which many policies target the use of plastic straws.

Loliware, a North American start-up, has reimagined this common throwaway product with sustainability in mind.

Loliware's seaweed-based straw.
A “cleaner” taste. Image: Loliware

The company follows a five-step process that turns seaweed into pellets, and pellets into straws.

3. Seaweed packaging

Globally, plastic packaging represents 26% of the total volume of plastics used.

To reduce this type of pollution, Sway has created packaging from seaweed. Using the natural polymers found in different types of marine algae, the packaging can mimic all the best qualities of plastic – without environmental harm, the company says.

Packaging made from seaweed.
Helping to eliminate plastic from supply chains. Image: Sway

And, once the packaging has been used, it can be composted.

Discover

What is the World Economic Forum doing about plastic pollution?

4. Deep sea deliveries

Running Tide, a team of engineers, marine operators, biologists and others, have come together to deliver carbon capture packages to the depths of our oceans.

Carbon capture and storage is the process of trapping and sequestering carbon dioxide before it enters the atmosphere, which can help mitigate the effects of climate change.

The US aquaculture company engineers buoys out of wood and limestone, featuring seaweed, which are then dropped into the ocean, most recently the North Atlantic.

Running Tide’s naturally alkaline, mineral-bound carbon buoy.
Running Tide’s naturally alkaline, mineral-bound carbon buoy. Image: Running Tide

The idea is they sink to the seabed where they will hopefully remain for hundreds of years – absorbing and sequestering carbon.

5. Seaweed farms

Given the myriad uses of seaweed, as well as its ability to capture and store carbon, many start-ups around the world have created seaweed farms.

They all mass-produce the algae but for a variety of uses.

Sea6 Energy, for example, based in Bangalore, India, produces biomass for fuel and sustainable raw materials for industries including agri-foods, health supplements, cosmetics, bioplastics and polymers.

Meanwhile, Canadian company Cascadia Seaweed, is seeking to bring its ocean bounty to more dinner tables while providing work opportunities for British Columbia’s indigenous communities around Vancouver Island.

Supporting the world’s ocean innovators

The World Economic Forum’s UpLink platform provides an ecosystem for innovative companies to present ideas that can help change the world for the better.

Together, the companies listed here – a mix of UpLink and independent entrepreneurs – show the potential of innovative solutions to tackle some of our biggest problems.

You can find out what UpLink is doing to improve ”Life Below Water”, a UN Sustainable Development Goal, here.

Have you read?
Loading...
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Climate ActionNature and Biodiversity
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Trust in voluntary carbon markets has been consistently low: What needs to change?

Antoine Rostand

June 12, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum