Plastics is currently one of the world’s most significant challenges. Consumers are becoming more aware of the thousands of tonnes of plastic that are polluting the ocean thanks to David Attenborough’s Blue Planet. Due of the widespread usage of plastic, particularly in packaging, firms will need to act quickly to identify plastic alternatives. In fact, 25% of customers are extremely concerned about plastic packaging, and 42% believe manufacturers should prioritise making packaging recyclable, while 21% believe the industry should move toward completely plastic-free packaging (Kantar). As plastic continues to be featured in the news on a regular basis, this figure will only climb. Brands must be seen to be taking a responsible approach; else, their hard-earned equity will be harmed.
With so many plastic alternatives being produced, we’ve compiled a list of 13 of the most interesting plastic replacement technologies.
1. Plant Based Plastic: Bioplastics are created from a range of materials, including corn that has been broken down into PLA (polylactic acid). Because it’s manufactured from waste products from maize cultivation – which is also easy to grow – it’s highly sustainable to make. PLA can be used to produce beverage bottles, food-grade containers, and films. Innocent, the eco-heroes, are now using 15% PLA in their bottles.
2. Bagasse: Bagasse is a sugarcane manufacturing waste product. It may be easily moulded into packaging ideal for food delivery and food service, comparable to polystyrene, because to its malleability and stickiness. It’s guaranteed biodegradable and compostable, and because it’s a by-product, it’s considerably more environmentally friendly to make than polystyrene.
3. Seaweed Water Bubbles: Ooho, a British firm, has developed a seaweed-based edible (and, by default, biodegradable) water bubble. “To provide the convenience of plastic bottles while minimising environmental impact,” they say. They’ve devised manufacturing methods that are both more efficient and less expensive than creating plastic bottles. When compared to PET manufacture, the process emits 5 times less CO2 and consumes 9 times less energy.
4. Shower Friendly Paper: L’Oréal, the beauty juggernaut, has now introduced Seed Phytonutrients, an eco-beauty line. The products themselves sound wonderful (crafted with 93-100 percent natural ingredients, cruelty-free, paraben-free, etc. ), but it’s the packaging that stands out. The exterior card is made by Ecologic and is recyclable, compostable, glue-free, and water-resistant. The inner liner is composed of recyclable plastic and consumes 60% less material than standard plastic bottles.
5. Stone Paper and Plastic: You might be surprised to learn that stone can be used to make paper. It obviously had an effect on me. I have a stone paper notepad with a lovely smooth finish that feels almost chilly to the touch. This wonderful invention might be used in a variety of packaging applications. It can be used as a paper or plastic substitute because it is printable, recyclable, and water-resistant… and it also has good eco credentials. It’s created from calcium carbonate, one of the world’s most common minerals, and the manufacturing process consumes less water, has a lower carbon footprint, and is more energy efficient than traditional papermaking. FDA-approved food packaging can also be made with stone paper. Paper (supermarket singlet) bags, takeaway food cartons, greaseproof paper wraps, and Ziplock bags can all be made with this.
6. Palm Leaves: The oyster-like casings for Holy Lama’s handmade soaps are constructed from palm leaves from the areca palm. The areca palm’s leaves naturally fall to the ground, where they are collected and shaped into the required shape. They’re brilliantly environmentally friendly because they employ a natural areca palm waste product and the final packaging is biodegradable. Arekapak, a Berlin-based firm, is working on palm leaf packaging for foods like fresh fruit, vegetables, and nuts.
7. Mushroom Root: Packaging is physically grown with Mycelium (mushroom roots, which is also the same substance that Quorn is comprised of). Ecovative Design collects agricultural waste, mixes it with mycelium in moulds, and then watches as the packaging grows. You can see how it works here, but I’m not convinced it’s not magic.
8. Wood Pulp Cellophane: NatureFlex is the more environmentally friendly younger sibling of cellophane, created from FSC-approved wood pulp and certified biodegradable. It is available in three different types: uncoated, which is ideal for chocolate and confectionery as well as household items; semi-permeable, which is suitable for fresh produce and dairy; and barrier, which is suitable for bakery, snacks, coffee, tea, chocolate, confectionery, as well as home and personal care items.