16/02/2023 – Sustainability / Plastic / Single-source / Notpla / Seaweed / Biodegradable
FROM SINGLE-SOURCE PLASTIC TO CIRCULAR SEAWEED: Award-winning biodegradable seaweed packaging
An eye-watering 6.3 billion tonnes of untreated plastic waste currently litter our streets and fill our seas. Notpla – winner of the recently announced £1 million Earthshot Prize – shows us that the future is not plastic, it’s seaweed.
Global awareness of the plastic packaging problem has reached record levels in recent years and the search for a true sustainable alternative is on-going. Could the solution lie in the seas? London-based start-up Notpla (www.notpla.com), founded by Pierre Paslier and Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez, believe so.
Just nine per cent of all the plastic ever produced has been recycled, and just 12 per cent has been incinerated. The rest lies in landfills or has been dumped into the oceans. Notpla offers an innovative alternative to plastic – made from seaweed and plants.
Totally natural and entirely biodegradable, Notpla’s innovation can be used to create a range of packaging products, including as a bubble to hold liquids, a coating for food containers, and a paper for the cosmetic and fashion industry.
Notpla’s wide and varied impact
At the London Marathon in 2019 36,000 Notpla-made Oohos, filled with Lucozade, were handed to runners. Last year, Notpla made over two million takeaway food boxes. One of Notpla's partners is Just Eat Takeaway.com, which is supplying seaweed-coated packaging for restaurants to buy on their webshops in the UK, Austria, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland. There is the potential to replace over 100 million plastic-coated containers in Europe in the future. The company continues to research and develop new formats and solutions, with a seaweed paper, flexible films and rigid materials in the pipeline.
“The solution lies in our oceans”
Notpla’s impact is wide and varied. Seaweed farmed for its production captures carbon 20 times faster than trees, addressing one of the key causes of the climate crisis. The packaging itself means less plastic clogging our seas, reducing ocean waste. Meanwhile, farms are able to boost fish populations, and seaweed farming creates new opportunities for fishing communities.
Notpla is just at the beginning of its journey, with new materials in development that could one day replace single-use plastic packaging applications across various industries and at a global scale. Today, plastic continues to pile up in our oceans and landfills, but Notpla could well prove a viable solution to this mounting waste challenge. “14 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans each year. We founded Notpla when we discovered the solution lies in our oceans too,” reported Notpla’s Co-Founder and CEO, Pierre Paslier, speaking at the Earthshot Award ceremony. “We are already replacing the plastic that plagues our seas, and working with seaweed farms that give back to the environment and the local economy. Thank you for recognising us as we take our next big step and eliminate single-use plastic for good!”
Indeed, in the fight against climate change, seaweed could be a surprising – but vital – weapon, according to Vincent Doumeizel, Senior Advisor on Oceans to the UN Global Compact. “Seaweed is one of the planet’s most abundant sources of biomass -– Giant Kelp’s biomass increases by an astonishing 20 per cent per day. Its production does not compete with food crops and requires no fertiliser or fresh water to produce. Finally, seaweed farmed for its production captures carbon 20 times faster than trees, addressing one of the key causes of the climate crisis,” he stated, adding that if just nine per cent of the ocean had seaweed farms, we could draw down all the CO2 we produce.
The £1 million Earthshot Prize will help Notpla to further ramp up the scale of its operations. “Thanks to the one million pounds, we are going to invest in R&D, continue to expand our team of chemists, engineers, and invest in new machinery,” the firm said in a statement. “But most importantly, the Earthshot Prize team is offering us some tailored support and will introduce us to The Earthshot Prize’s vast network of businesses, philanthropists and investors, that should boost scaling our commercialisation.”
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