Sustainable packaging from seaweed wins Earthshot prize

Sustainable packaging

A sustainable packaging solution based on seaweed has been developed by Notpla, a UK company that won Earthshot’s ‘Building a Waste-Free World’ category.

The solution is a seaweed-based biodegradable alternative to plastic. Sustainable packaging solutions are needed to replace the 6.3bn tonnes of plastic waste that currently litter our oceans and streets.

With products ranging from edible drinks pouches to fast-food packaging, Notpla, supported by Innovate UK and Sky Ocean Ventures and a member of the UKRI-funded UK Circular Plastics Network, has already made over one million food boxes for takeaway company Just Eat.

The coating of the company’s sustainable packaging is seaweed-based, greaseproof and waterproof and is also biodegrades in weeks. Seaweed farmed for its production captures carbon 20-times faster than trees, addressing one of the key causes of the climate crisis.

Global awareness of the plastic packaging problem has reached record levels in recent years and the search for a true sustainable alternative is ongoing. Just nine per cent of all the plastic ever produced has been recycled and 12 per cent has been incinerated. The rest lies in landfills or has been dumped into the oceans.

Seaweed is totally natural and entirely biodegradable, and can be used to create a range of sustainable packaging products such as a bubble to hold liquids, a coating for food containers and a paper for the cosmetic and fashion industry.

Notpla has made over one million takeaway food boxes for Just Eat, with the potential to replace over 100 million plastic coated containers in Europe in the future. The company is continuing to research and develop new formats and solutions, with flexible films and rigid materials in the pipeline.

Notpla’s impact is wide and varied. Seaweed farmed for its production captures carbon twenty-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 boost fish population 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 there may now be an answer. It’s not plastic, it’s seaweed.

“Fourteen million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans each year,” said Pierre Paslier, co-founder and CEO of Notpla. “We founded Notpla when we discovered the solution lies in our oceans too. We are already replacing plastic that plagues our seas, and working with seaweed farms that give back to the environment and the local economy. Thank you to Earthshot for recognising us as we take our next big step and eliminate single-use plastic for good.”

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