Sustainability-in-Tech : Disappearing Packaging Made From Seaweed & Plants

London-based Notpla Ltd makes sustainable, biodegradable, and home compostable packaging from seaweed and plants.

Naturally ‘Disappears’ 

Notpla Ltd, a start-up founded in 2014, manufactures different sustainable packaging solutions made from Notpla, a material made from seaweed and plants that disappears naturally.

The Problem 

The company was started by Pierre Yves-Paslier and Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez after they developed an interest in finding innovative alternatives to single-use plastic whilst being students on a ‘Master of Innovation Design Engineering’ programme run jointly by the Royal College of Art and Imperial College.

With only 9 per cent of all plastic waste ever produced being recycled (UN Environment Programme), 12 per cent being incinerated (releasing CO2 and toxins), and the remaining 79 per cent ending up in landfills or the environment (e.g. our water as microplastics), and with an EU Single-Use Plastic Directive aiming to ban synthetic materials like PLA & PHA, Notpla’s founders realised that a sustainable, biodegradable packaging alternative must be found and set about working on one.

Ooho First 

The first product, ‘Ooho,’ was developed following home kitchen experiments in 2013. This edible, flexible, and 100 per cent biodegradable and home compostable packaging for liquids went viral online and convinced the pair to start the company a year later.

The company was able to grow quickly and expand its product development following a crowd funded seed round where £850k was invested by 900 investors (worldwide).

Seaweed Based 

With seaweed being one of the planet’s most abundant sources of biomass (growing at a rate up to 1 metre per day), and with its production not competing with food crops, not requiring fertiliser or fresh water to produce, and being something that locks away CO2, it seemed like the natural choice for Notpla’s next product.

Seaweed based Notpla coating offers many of the same grease and water-resistant qualities of traditional coatings used in takeaway food packaging, but its benefits include that it is:

– Designed to disappear naturally.

– 100 per cent recyclable.

– Biodegradable.

– Certified for home and industrial composting (it breaks down in just 4-6 weeks), or it can be disposed of with general waste as it will disappear naturally and leave nothing harmful in the environment.

– Sustainable, i.e. it’s made from seaweed (one of the planet’s most abundant biomass sources) from mostly European suppliers and plants.

Awards and Certifications 

The value of Notpla’s products in terms of sustainability and innovation has been recognised with a number of awards and certifications including Prince William’s Earthshot Prize (for sustainability), Innovation of the Year, UK Packaging Award 2022, and Innovation Award, the Responsible Packaging Expo Awards 2022.

The company also now works with some major brands, e.g. Heinz, Just Eat, Bidfood, and Bunzl.

What Does This Mean For Your Organisation? 

Today’s disposable lifestyle where 50 per cent of plastic is thrown away, polluting the environment, and adding to the 12 million tonnes of plastic that’s not biodegradable and finds its way into the ocean every year (creating an estimated 51 trillion microscopic plastic particles) is a major problem.

It’s not just plastic bottles but also the plastic coatings on food packing that contribute to the problem.

Notpla’s products, therefore, provide companies with an option that ticks many boxes in tackling the problem. The fact that it’s made mostly from seaweed, a sustainable plant that itself locks away CO2, and is naturally biodegradable and compostable, but works as well as plastic packaging makes it a much more attractive and beneficial alternative. It’s heartening to see that deals are already in place with many major brands and with more consumers aware of and concerned about the environment advertising the fact that packaging is so environmentally friendly could be valued by consumers, thereby helping companies that adopt it. If costs can be kept low enough, and the scope and variety of packaging that can be made this way expanded, it could start to make a dent in turning the tide on plastic waste.