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Replacing plastic with seaweed

Rodrigo García González, CEO, Notpla Limited.

“A plastic item that can be recycled will not necessarily be recycled. An item which degrades naturally is the optimal solution.”

Notpla is a sustainable packaging company combatting plastic pollution by using seaweed and plants as a plastic alternative. Rodrigo identified seaweed as a suitable replacement due to its abundant availability and ability to naturally biodegrade without releasing any microplastics or environmentally harmful waste.

Food packaging developed by Notpla using seaweed instead of plastic.
Food packaging developed by Notpla using seaweed instead of plastic.

Existing plastic manufacturing systems have been optimised over many years, requiring any proposed replacement to have the ability to be substituted into existing manufacturing lines without the need for significant process changes. Rodrigo has achieved this with the interior coating of cardboard food takeaway boxes, and these coatings are now supplied at commercial scale.

The development of their leading product Ooho, edible bubbles that replace plastic packaging for liquids, required the development of unique in-house production machines that are specifically adapted for production scale. The machines fill and form the edible bubbles simultaneously before sealing them ready for use, and have the capacity to manufacture two to three thousand units per day. In comparison, replacements for plastic film are available in small production batches, but require further formulation optimisation if they are to be mass produced by existing manufacturing methods.

Notpla have also started using seaweed fibres to produce seaweed paper. In the long term, using seaweed to replace traditional wood pulp in paper manufacturing is being considered.

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