Exclusive interview | Notpla, the earthshot prize-winning company creating seaweed and plant-based packaging
“We’re disrupting the market…”
We speak to Pierre, co-founder and co-CEO of Notpla on how it’s pioneering the use of seaweed in the packaging industry, disrupting the market by introducing regenerative packaging.
We hope your comfortable…because this is an incredible read.
Give us a short introduction to Notpla:
Notpla is the Earthshot Prize-winning company creating seaweed & plant based alternatives to single-use plastic packaging with partners like Just Eat Takeaway.com and Decathlon. All our packaging solutions are natural. Just like a fruit peel, they are home-compostable and biodegradable. Our technology is now fully industrialised, with millions of units sold across eight EU countries.
What products does Notpla provide?
Notpla has developed a portfolio of products that provide sustainable packaging solutions across various industries.
Our first iconic product is Notpla Ooho, a flexible packaging for liquids and gels. We then developed Notpla Coating, a greaseproof & waterproof coating for paperboards used for takeaway food packaging, replacing plastic-lined takeout containers or containers with harmful chemicals such as PFAs. Notpla Film is a flexible packaging for a wide range of uses: household cleaning, cosmetics, and food. Finally, we also developed some early-stage innovations representing our product portfolio’s future, such as Notpla Rigid Material, Notpla Paper or Notpla Pearls.
How does the process/technology work?
Our products are designed to be compostable, edible, or dissolve in water.
Notpla’s packaging technology works by extracting components from seaweed and plants to create biodegradable materials that can mimic some properties of plastic, but break down naturally. One part of our portfolio is made from the gelatinous part of the seaweed, which represents 20% of the seaweed – this is the case for our Notpla Ooho, Notpla Coating and Notpla Film. As we extract this part, it leaves behind fibres and biomass that can be turned into Notpla Paper and used to make Notpla Rigid like biodegradable disposable cutlery and packaging for the cosmetic and fashion industries, such as cases for luxury watches.
What impact has Notpla made in the world of packaging?
Notpla is pioneering the use of seaweed in the packaging industry, disrupting the market by introducing regenerative packaging.
Our regenerative packaging, being sourced from seaweed and plants, is a unique alternative to single-use plastic packaging, that can be scaled to replace single-use plastic packaging in a waste free manner, leaving no plastics nor chemicals behind.
If we take our Notpla takeaway boxes as an example, they can be disposed of in three, guilt-free ways: it is 100% recyclable, home-compostable or industrially compostable. It can also be disposed of in your general waste.
So far, we have already replaced more than 3 million single-use plastics from entering the environment!
What are the new innovations’ main characteristics and its main essential features?
One of our latest innovation is Notpla Film, a flexible film that can dissolve in hot or cold water. In October, we will be launching the world’s-first plant-based, water-soluble film for the Home and Laundry Care market, together with the eco-refill cleaning product company Mack, replacing conventional fossil fuel-derived packaging. The collaboration marks a pivotal moment in the pursuit of true sustainable alternatives to PVA and PVOH – commonly used in products that claim to be plastic-free – that are damaging the environment by releasing micro-plastics into the water.
Unlike these, the unique characteristics of Notpla’s water-soluble film allow the packaging of the detergent to dissolve completely in water, breaking down naturally without releasing any microplastics.
How sustainable and/or innovative is the solution?
Notpla packaging solutions are highly sustainable and innovative packaging solutions – these are values that we’ve built our business on.
Firstly, by using seaweed and plant extracts, Notpla packaging offers a 100% natural solution to replace plastic. Thanks to seaweed, our material shares similar status with natural organic materials. Our material falls outside of the new EU Single-Use Plastic Directive which aims to ban synthetic materials such as PLA, PHA and other bioplastics.
Secondly, seaweed could be a surprising – but vital – weapon in the fight against climate change. Seaweed is one of the planet’s most abundant sources of biomass – as an example, Giant Kelp’s biomass increases by 20% per day, its production does not compete with food crops, requires no fertiliser or fresh water to produce. Also, farmed seaweed captures carbon 20 times faster than trees, addressing one of the key causes of the climate crisis. Actually, if 9% of the ocean had seaweed farms, we could draw down all the CO2 we produce (La Revolution des Algues, Vincent Doumeizel). Finally, seaweed also supports local coastal economies and development.
The uniqueness of our packaging material also stands in its end-of-life: contrary to plastic or bio-based plastic solutions, we are offering truly biodegradable packaging that will leave no trace on nature at the end-of life. Our packaging solutions are 100% home compostable, just like a piece of fruit, so can be disposed of in a kitchen food waste bin or home-compost. They will disappear in as little as four to six weeks.
What trend or challenge in the industry is it addressing?
Notpla products aim to solve the disparity that currently exists between the products we consume and the packaging they come in. Many plastics stick around for hundreds of years and are used for products that are intended to be consumed within minutes or even seconds. From this stems Notpla’s mission of making plastic packaging disappear.
Companies are now pro-actively looking for true sustainable packaging solutions as a replacement to plastic. Big companies such as Just Eat Takeaway.com have already taken this move. Last year, Notpla made over 1 million takeaway food boxes for Just Eat Takeaway.com, with the potential to replace over 100 million plastic-coated containers in Europe in the future. The regulation is also promoting true sustainable alternatives to plastic, as we’ve seen with the Single-Use Plastics (SUP) European Directive which prevents and reduces the impact on the environment of certain plastic products and promotes a transition to a circular economy.
What technical challenges do you need to overcome to manufacture this solution, if any?
Other than technical, let me share with you a challenge that is directly impacting our business.
One of the most recurrent challenges when it comes to scalability is the greenwashing and misinformation present in the industry. We are trying to overcome the barrier of dishonest solutions that claim to be sustainable, but in fact, have plastic or microplastic that remains in the environment.
For our products to enter the market seamlessly and at the large-scale intended, legislative change still needs to happen to regulate the solutions that are not in fact sustainable and halt the path to a single-use plastic-free future and market.
What reactions have you had from clients?
Very positive – clients are eager for sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging as it positively impacting their business: they have innovative packaging with a next generation of performance they can rely on, it is sustainable and is boosting their sales as their customers are in demand for true sustainable packaging. Notpla’s technology has gained industry recognition too, with awards including the Innovation Awards with the UK Packaging Award 2022 and the Responsible Packaging Expo Awards 2022, the Earthshot Prize Award 2022 in the category Build a Waste-Free World and the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize.
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Photo de www.unilever.com