Subsequent 12 months will mark alt plastic maker Notpla’s ten-year anniversary. Though not a brand new participant to the packaging scene, Notpla (brief for ‘not plastic’) has come a great distance from the times of sitting round a kitchen ‘creating bubbles’.
“We began with intention and a bit of little bit of magic in our kitchen,” recalled co-founder and co-CEO Pierre-Yves Paslier. What the packaging design engineer refers to as ‘bubbles’ had been truly algae-based membranes able to encapsulating water and different kinds of liquids. Notpla (then referred to as Skipping Rock Labs) coined the invention Ooho: an edible bubble designed to exchange single use plastic packaging.
Over the past 9 years Notpla has been increasing its portfolio to incorporate takeaway meals containers, inflexible cutlery, spice sachets, and meals oil pipettes, in addition to purposes for beauty and family cleansing merchandise markets. All are constructed from seaweed and crops.
Seaweed packaging impressed by fruit
The impetus behind creating a substitute for single use plastic got here from environmental considerations, defined Paslier at FoodNavigator’s latest Local weather Sensible Meals digital summit.
Though plastic is a high-performance materials, cheap and available, additionally it is inherently tied to plastic air pollution. “The quantity of plastic that [humans] pump into the ocean is beginning to have advanced implications for marine life. Microplanktons are consuming an increasing number of microplastics, which have a detrimental affect on their well being – and ultimately on the well being of people as nicely.”
On the hunt for options to single use plastic, Notpla turned to nature for inspiration. Fruit peel, for instance, naturally protects its contents whereas being fully biodegradable in the fitting surroundings. Not like bioplastics, fruit peel doesn’t require any particular end-of-life human intervention to decompose, and a few fruit casings – such because the pores and skin on a cherry tomato – are fully edible.
“If we might design packaging a bit extra like fruits, we [knew we] would have one thing actually fascinating,” recalled Paslier. That’s, partly, the intention of Notpla, he continued, “to create packaging that may be actually edible, which you can devour similar to a cherry tomato”.
In taking inspiration from nature, it’s unsurprising Notpla’s resolution can be sourced from nature. Seaweed is one in all nature’s most renewable sources, stated Paslier. Not solely does it develop quick, but it surely additionally sequesters carbon because it grows. Additional, there are many totally different species of seaweed, comprising a lot of totally different properties. “We predict that seaweed is unbelievable…And one of many unbelievable issues about seaweed is that you should use it to create a spread of various packaging options.”
From Ooho to the EarthShot Prize
Notpla’s first seaweed-based software, Ooho, was nicely acquired by shoppers. With the power to biodegrade in 4 to 6 weeks, or else consumed, the corporate trialled its improvements at sports activities occasions such because the London Marathon in 2019. One 12 months prior, Lucozade Sport piloted the edible seaweed packaging – full of its sports activities drinks and gels – on the Richmond Marathon and Powerful Mudder sporting occasions.
On these events, Notpla was in a position to substitute a ‘large’ quantity of plastic that sometimes would have been utilized in simply someday, defined Paslier. “Now we’re working with Decathlon to exchange [packaging of] its power gels, in order that [consumers] don’t have to make use of plastic and aluminium sachets.”
Ooho know-how can be getting used to create dwelling compostable sachets for sauces, condiments and salad dressing for the meals service trade.
Not too long ago Notpla additionally made its mark within the takeaway meals container house, having received the EarthShot Prize launched by Prince William to help options that ‘restore and regenerate the planet’.
Whereas standard containers are lined with plastic coatings to guard in opposition to grease and moisture, the start-up has developed a biodegradable seaweed coating.
To make its containers – of which Notpla has manufactured tens of millions already – the corporate extracts ‘gelatinous components’ from seaweed to develop a formulation for large-scale equipment. “It could actually then undergo the remainder of the traditional chain of producing at trade normal velocity and create a lot of totally different types of containers that be utilized in a lot of totally different purposes.”
As soon as used, the entire packaging may be composted. In accordance with Notpla, worms, fungi and microbes love its invention: ‘Our containers develop into meals for different residing organisms’.
“We are actually energetic in a lot of stadiums round Europe,” Paslier added.
A ‘future proofing’ invention
From a enterprise perspective, Notpla considers itself fortunate to be working at a time when legislative stress round plastics is constructing.
Within the UK, a Plastic Packaging Tax got here into power final 12 months, and a ban on single-use plastic bowls, plates and trays was enforced on 1 October. Within the EU, Member States pay a plastic tax on non-recycled plastic waste, with some Member States introducing their very own plastic taxes on single-use plastic packaging.
In November 2022, EU guidelines on Packaging and Packaging Waste had been adopted. Regulators have outlined ‘very clearly’ what does, and doesn’t represent plastic, defined Paslier. “We’re…clearly out of the plastic class. [Businesses that use our products] should not going to face any of the bans or taxes which are being utilized an increasing number of to plastics.
“We’re actually future-proofing, and serving to manufacturers change away from plastic.”
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