Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
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Plastic Packaging Takes Backseat to Seaweed, Origami-Inspired Alternatives

Though the normalization of single-use plastic packaging has made plastic pollution out to be an insurmountable problem, consumers’ and brands’ growing awareness of the implications of take-make-dispose models is helping drive the development of recyclable and renewable packaging alternatives. Ellen MacArthur Circular Design Challenge winners TrioCup and Evoware are two examples of packaging innovators leading the charge towards a more circular economy.

Though a seemingly mundane product, coffee cups are garnering considerable attention on the world stage for their extensive environmental impact. In the UK alone, an estimated 2.5 billion disposable cups make their way into landfill every year, prompting coffee chains and local government to roll out a myriad of initiatives and disincentives to boost recycling and drive change, such as in-store cup takeback programs and the implementation of a 25p “latte levy.” Globally, this number skyrockets to around 100 billion, yet the vast majority of disposable coffee cups and their lids are not recycled. While reusable options and “Cup Clubs” offer an ideal solution to the problem, US-based startup TrioCup believes disposable cups can be part of the solution.

TrioCup has created a disposable paper cup made with an origami-like technique that removes the need for a plastic lid. The company produced the cup using a 100 percent compostable material and is working on an alternative that is also 100 percent recyclable.

The TrioCup is currently being piloted in a number of New York City coffee shops to prove its market viability and advantages over traditional cups and lids.


Meanwhile, Evoware is tackling Indonesia’s extensive marine plastics problem with seaweed-based packaging. As the second largest source of ocean plastics pollution, Indonesia stands to benefit substantially from the expansion of alternative packaging solutions.

Using seaweed sourced from local farmers, the startup has developed a portfolio of biodegradable food wrap, coffee and seasoning sachets and soap packaging. The packaging dissolves in warm water, making it a zero-waste product and can also be used as a natural fertilizer for plants.

The company is currently selling the packaging in small batches on its website for product testing. Through the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Accelerator Program, Evoware hopes to scale its operations and bring its bio-based products to the global market.

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