Subsequent yr will mark alt plastic maker Notpla’s ten-year anniversary. Though not a brand new participant to the packaging scene, Notpla (quick for ‘not plastic’) has come a great distance from the times of sitting round a kitchen ‘creating bubbles’.
“We began with intention and slightly 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 really algae-based membranes able to encapsulating water and different kinds of liquids. Notpla (then generally known as Skipping Rock Labs) coined the invention Ooho: an edible bubble designed to exchange single use plastic packaging.
During the last 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 vegetation.
Seaweed packaging impressed by fruit
The impetus behind growing 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, it’s also inherently tied to plastic air pollution. “The quantity of plastic that [humans] pump into the ocean is beginning to have complicated implications for marine life. Microplanktons are consuming an increasing number of microplastics, which have a unfavorable affect on their well being – and finally on the well being of people as effectively.”
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 utterly biodegradable in the suitable setting. In contrast to 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 utterly edible.
“If we may design packaging a bit extra like fruits, we [knew we] would have one thing actually attention-grabbing,” recalled Paslier. That’s, partially, the intention of Notpla, he continued, “to create packaging that may be actually edible, that you would be able to devour identical to a cherry tomato”.
In taking inspiration from nature, it’s unsurprising Notpla’s answer can also be sourced from nature. Seaweed is certainly one of nature’s most renewable sources, mentioned Paslier. Not solely does it develop quick, however it additionally sequesters carbon because it grows. Additional, there are many totally different species of seaweed, comprising plenty of totally different properties. “We expect that seaweed is unbelievable…And one of many unbelievable issues about seaweed is that you should utilize it to create a spread of various packaging options.”
From Ooho to the EarthShot Prize
Notpla’s first seaweed-based utility, Ooho, was effectively acquired by shoppers. With the flexibility 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 yr prior, Lucozade Sport piloted the edible seaweed packaging – stuffed with its sports activities drinks and gels – on the Richmond Marathon and Powerful Mudder sporting occasions.
On these events, Notpla was capable of substitute a ‘big’ quantity of plastic that usually would have been utilized in simply someday, defined Paslier. “Now we’re working with Decathlon to exchange [packaging of] its vitality gels, in order that [consumers] don’t have to make use of plastic and aluminium sachets.”
Ooho expertise can also be getting used to create house compostable sachets for sauces, condiments and salad dressing for the meals service trade.
Lately Notpla additionally made its mark within the takeaway meals container area, having received the EarthShot Prize launched by Prince William to help options that ‘restore and regenerate the planet’.
Whereas typical containers are lined with plastic coatings to guard towards grease and moisture, the start-up has developed a biodegradable seaweed coating.
To make its packing containers – of which Notpla has manufactured hundreds of thousands already – the corporate extracts ‘gelatinous components’ from seaweed to develop a formulation for large-scale equipment. “It may then undergo the remainder of the conventional chain of producing at trade customary pace and create plenty of totally different types of packing containers that be utilized in plenty of totally different purposes.”
As soon as used, the entire packaging could be composted. In line with Notpla, worms, fungi and microbes love its invention: ‘Our containers change into meals for different dwelling organisms’.
“We are actually lively in plenty 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 strain round plastics is constructing.
Within the UK, a Plastic Packaging Tax got here into drive final yr, 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] are usually not going to face any of the bans or taxes which are being utilized an increasing number of to plastics.
“We’re really future-proofing, and serving to manufacturers swap away from plastic.”
Missed Notpla’s presentation or another content material streamed in the course of the Local weather Sensible Meals broadcast? Don’t be concerned, it is all accessible on demand. Click on HERE to view the programme and HERE to register and think about at your leisure.