Published 5 months ago.
About a 6 minute read.
As innovators such as Notpla and B’ZEOS continue to prove, the potential uses for seaweed — including as plastic alternatives that are truly compostable and biodegradable — are endless.
Currently, the world produces more than 380 million tonnes of
plastic a year, with 42 percent
of this used for packaging. And the statistics on that plastic
are dismal: Only 9 percent of all plastic ever produced has been recycled, 12
percent has been incinerated and 22 percent has been otherwise mismanaged.
Ironically, plastic was created to save the environment — creating a durable
alternative to natural materials such as elephant ivory and tortoise
But as we well know, it has done the opposite and become one of our largest
— poisoning the earth, destroying global ecosystems and killing marine life.
But plastic became ubiquitous for a reason; so, finding alternatives that not
only boast the advantages and functionality of plastic but don’t persist in the
environment has proven no easy feat. With 175 nations
to end plastic pollution and the legally binding agreement
world leaders are eager to find viable ways to turn off the plastic tap and put
an end to our toxic dependence on it.
Enter: Seaweed — which not only offers the world a plethora of practical
it could also be a game-changer in the fight against climate
With the current rate of plastic packaging production not compatible with a
sustainable future, material innovators Notpla and
B’ZEOS are among those looking to seaweed as a viable
Image credit: Notpla
Winners of both the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation
and the 2022 Earthshot
startup Notpla (as in “Not Plastic”) was founded by
packaging designer Pierre-Yves
Paslier and designer and architect
who met in an Innovation Design Engineering Masters
at Imperial College London. Notpla has developed a line of biodegradable,
seaweed-based alternatives to plastic packaging that break down in 4-6 weeks.
“Seaweed is revolutionary in every aspect. For us, it is the perfect alternative
to plastic; it’s what we use from beginning to end — even the elements that
would normally go to waste — to create Notpla’s innovative products that
disappear just like fruit,” Paslier told Sustainable Brands®.
Seaweed grows rapidly and abundantly without the need for freshwater or
fertilizers; so, it can be cultivated on a large scale without putting any
additional strain on natural resources or disrupting the environment.
Notpla’s seaweed-based packaging solutions come in a variety of forms. Notpla
Coating has many of the same
grease- and water-resistant qualities of traditional, plastic barriers that
prevent items such as takeaway boxes and hot-beverage
from being fully recyclable or biodegradable. Takeaway containers utilizing
Notpla Coating are already available across eight countries in Europe; and
its reach continues to expand, thanks to partnerships with companies such as
delivery app Just Eat and
UK-based foodservice wholesaler Bidfood.
In addition to the takeaway industry, Notpla’s edible Ooho
are making on-the-go hydration easier; thanks to a partnership with
they’ve appeared in vending machines in London gyms and were handed out to
runners at two 2019
— reportedly replacing 38,000 plastic bottles at the Netherlands’
Zevenheuvelenloop and 36,000 at the London Marathon. This year, Ooho
bubbles replaced over 20,000 single-use plastic cups at the Gothenburg Half
The company has also developed Notpla
Paper — made from the fibers and
biomass left behind after the gelatinous part of the seaweed is extracted —
which is suited to many secondary packaging applications and enables a truly
circular way of using the entire seaweed.
Paslier noted that one of Notpla’s biggest challenges is
— the introduction of an innovative, truly sustainable products in a market
awash with dishonest
still requires legislative
for large-scale adoption.
“But it is a challenge we are persistently working on — leveraging our story and
success to prove that it can be done. And although there remain steps to be
taken from both a governmental and end-customer position, we can support in
directing and informing our industry and audience on which these are,” Paslier
“The long-term goal for us is to become a leader in the sustainable packaging
industry, to expand our portfolio of truly sustainable ‘Not Plastic’ solutions
for packaging and disposables that come from nature and leave no trace behind,”
he adds. “By working with the world’s leading consumer brands, we will put
seaweed on the map and become a household name. With continued effort in
educating people and making it easy to consume more responsibly, we can see a
future where Notpla has replaced 1 billion single-use plastics.”
In the meantime, while the company primarily sources its
Car-Y-Mor, a seaweed farm on the coast of Wales,
Notpla is working to support growth of the regenerative seaweed-farming industry
throughout the UK and Europe by steadily building partnerships with seaweed
Image credit: B'ZEOS
Meanwhile, Norwegian green-tech company B'ZEOS
(the name reflects the company’s mission: Be Zero waste, Edible,
Ocean-origin, Sustainable) is also using seaweed to develop novel,
bio-based materials which it hopes will replace fossil-fuel-based plastic. Its
seaweed-packaging pellets can be transformed into a variety of final products,
making it compatible with conventional machinery. B’ZEOS says the processes used
to make its 100 percent biodegradable and home-compostable material are energy
efficient and do not require any toxic chemicals.
As Kela Feller,
Communications & Partnerships Manager at B’ZEOS, told SB: “Seaweed is a really
versatile crop. It doesn't require land use or freshwater to grow, it creates
habitats for marine life, it sequesters carbon from the atmosphere and absorbs
excess nitrates in the water, helping to combat ocean acidification — it's just
a miracle crop!”
B’ZEOS is mainly focusing on food and beverage packaging; but Feller says its
products can be suitable for many industries — including electronics, cosmetics
and pharma. B'ZEOS is also developing flexible
films, paper coatings,
thermoformables and injection molding for various packaging applications.
it secures its seaweed from one of the top regenerative seaweed growers in
Europe, with operations in France and Norway; and as it scales, it is
working to train more suppliers in Canada and Indonesia. B’ZEOS’
business model is based on paid pilots and services; once it enters the market
with its final products, the company would like to sell the seaweed pellets
directly to converters and packaging manufacturers.
B’ZEOS — which has already had two collaboration periods with
and has been awarded its first EU grant,
— is hoping to be commercial by next year, with an initial focus on food
Published Jun 23, 2023 11am EDT / 8am PDT / 4pm BST / 5pm CEST
Scarlett Buckley is a London-based freelance sustainability writer with an MSc in Creative Arts & Mental Health.