Image source: Notpla
Algae instead of plastic: coated packaging for the take-away market.
Thomas Reiner | 12.04.2023
English start-up Notpla is launching a new range of coated, compostable packaging for takeaways and delivery services. The coating is made from algae and replaces previously used plastic while maintaining the same grease- and water-repellent properties. The topic of “sustainably coated papers” is gaining momentum and offers interesting alternatives. The focus here, especially in Europe, is less on compostability and more on recyclability. Basically, Notpla is going in the right direction. This applies not only to the aspect of “littering,” but also to the substitution of fossil raw materials with renewable sources.
Notpla was founded in 2014 and describes itself as a “sustainable packaging start-up”. Now the company is launching a new range of 7 packaging solutions coated (inside) with algae. Notpla is targeting the take-away industry and delivery services with its “truly sustainable” offering. Until now, take-away packaging made of paper and pulp has usually been coated with plastic and protected from the effects of oil and water using chemicals such as so-called PFAs.
New pakaging solutions
- According to the company, the coating has many of the same grease- and water-repellent properties as plastic, but is made from algae and plants.
- Notpla states that the packaging is naturally biodegradable and can be disposed of in local compost. In nature, the process is said to take only 4 to 6 weeks. Industrial composting or special conditions are not required.
- In addition, according to Notpla, the packaging is recyclable.
- The solutions are available in both PFA-free white kraft board and PFA-free brown kraft board.
- The new collection won the UK Packaging Awards 2022 Innovation of the Year and the Responsible Packaging Expo Awards 2022 Innovation Award.
High volumes possible
- Last year, Notpla says it produced more than 1 million takeaway packages for delivery service giant Just Eat Takeaway. In Germany and Austria, Just Eat Takeaway operates under the Lieferando brand. The delivery service has used the algae-coated packaging in the UK, Austria, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland.
- Notpla believes its solutions have the potential to replace more than 100 million plastic-coated takeaway containers in Europe in the future
- According to the startup, more than two billion takeaway packages are used in Europe each year.
- The market needs alternatives because the plastic barriers used in takeaway packaging to date often use biocompatible corn starch-based plastics such as PLA-PHA or conventional plastic barriers containing perfluoroalkoxy polymers (PFA). Both are viewed critically by the EU legislation and are to be heavily regulated under the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive (SUPD).
Not everything that grows back is sustainable
The topic of alternative, sustainable barrier layers for functional papers is visibly gaining momentum. In addition to the required functionality, the solutions must now not only be “organic” and use raw materials from renewable sources. For true sustainability, production must also not rely on foodstuffs such as corn. This is where Notpla can score with its interesting algae-based alternative.
Compostability and recyclability
The question of biodegradability is not a core requirement for the European market in the long term. Here, the primacy of the circular economy applies and, consequently, the recyclability of the packaging. If both are combined – all the better.
In principle, Notpla is also on the right track. Because apart from the advantage of naturally degradable materials in the fight against the environmental consequences of littering, renewable raw materials without competing with food are part of a good, holistic approach.