It’s no secret that, for many consumers, plastic packaging
has become public enemy number one. Its negative impact is well-documented. Earlier
this year a system of giant
floating barriers operated by non-profit The Ocean Cleanup fished 28,659
kilogrammes of plastic out of the Pacific Ocean. And that was just one mission.
According to the journal Science, between 4.8
and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year.
All kinds of alternative packaging materials have been
suggested, and a diverse range of initiatives have been developed to avoid plastic
being wastefully discarded. It’s also clear that consumers care about the
issue. One survey found that more
than half of customers take sustainable packaging into account when selecting
a product. So, the key question remains: what are the solutions?
Over the past year, Springwise has spotted several packaging
innovations that aim to reduce the impact of plastic.
London-based startup Notpla has created a range of
packaging solutions made from seaweed and plants. The company’s
first product was the ‘Ooho’, an edible packaging for liquids that has up
to 90 per cent less carbon impact than plastic.
In 2020, Notpla partnered with online food delivery company Just
Eat to create seaweed-lined takeaway containers. The containers use an innovative
coating that is completely natural and home compostable, providing grease
proofing without adding plastic. This means that the containers can be
recycled, unlike many paper-based takeaway containers that use plastic for
The focus for Notpla in 2021 has been on commercialising their
initial products, with plans to spread across Europe and into the US.
Agricultural waste doesn’t sound like an attractive solution
for food packaging. But German startup Traceless has used this seemingly unpromising
material to make three new types of compostable
packaging that are completely safe to use for food.
The products include a film, a sprayable coating and a hard
plastic alternative, and the polymers used to make them are natural, without
any chemical alteration, meaning that they are much quicker to decompose.
Finding new uses for waste material, is another way to solve
the packaging problem. This is the approach taken by Israeli startup Remeant.
The company converts
single-use plastics into sustainable vegan leathers. Each textile is
unique, produced as it is from a particular set of waste products.
The technology is capable of upcycling some of the most
difficult to reuse waste plastics, including bubble wrap. The upcycled fabrics
are durable, lightweight, waterproof, and washable.
New packaging with a very
slippery surface could save considerable amounts of water, resources, and
money. The slippery packaging was developed by LiquiGlide and its
design allows manufacturers to make more concentrated products. This is because
sticky substances normally need to be combined with lots of water in order to
be dispensed. Removing the need to dilute a product reduces its water
The new bottles are also easier for consumers to recycle
because they do not need to be cleaned out first. And, of course, less product is
wasted, which saves resources in manufacturing and shipping. Using the slippery
material for sauce bottles alone could save one million tonnes of food from
being thrown out each year.
Researchers from the Morphing Matter Lab at
Carnegie Mellon University have devised a way to create flat
pasta that morphs into a range of shapes when cooked, saving on energy used
for packaging and transportation.
The team inscribe carefully-placed patterns of grooves in
the flat pasta. When the pasta is then dunked into hot water, these patterns cause
it to bend and form traditional tube, spiral and twist shapes. The ‘flat-packed’
pasta is easier to store which reduces the carbon footprint involved in transporting
Words: Matthew Hempstead
1st December 2021