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Imagining a Plastic-Free Future

Imagining a Plastic-Free Future

Help is on the way! Mushroom, seaweed, shrimp and other earthy materials could save our plastic-riddled planet.

Our dependence on plastic seems never-ending. Luckily, human innovation can’t be stopped as companies both large and small develop a range of plastic-free alternatives to see us into the future!

Humans are an innovative bunch. Unfortunately, our innovation often gets us in a bind. Right now we find ourselves in such a bind, to put it mildly. Our world and in particular, our oceans, are awash in non-recyclable plastic. In fact, 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean annually while 33% of plastic is designed as single-use only. This is a non-sustainable situation and the clock is ticking.

Adopting circular systems and reusable habits is a great step in the right direction when it comes to reducing plastic pollution. At the same time, we're lucky that innovators are on the move, rapidly developing solutions to help us find substitutes for plastic that are healthy for people and planet. We landed on the moon. There’s no telling what we’ll come up with next.

Thinking Outside of the Plastic Bottle

Our ingenuity is now backed up with advances in science and engineering along with some classic outside-of-the-box thinking. The phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” has never been more relevant. Everything from mycelium fungi to prawn shells and palm leaves are being turned into biodegradable packaging.

A new kind of bio styrofoam made from mycelium is being created by a team of designers that have won a grant from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. By feeding mushroom roots with agricultural by products and allowing this bio concoction to grow into a spongy foam, they've created a circular solution. 

All these advancements don’t mean a thing unless people use them. Forward-leaning Fortune 500 behemoths like Apple, Ford, and L’Oreal are leading the way by reducing their plastic usage and seeking out plastic-free alternatives to packaging and even car parts.

With so many new products in the works, it is only a matter of time non-biodegradable plastic becomes a long forgotten nightmare. 

Even bioplastics are mucking up our planet since they largely don't biodegrade naturally, can't be recycled and mostly can't be commercially composted. So we must beware of easy answers and look deeply at circular solutions to our plastic dilemma so that at every stage, including at time of disposal, new innovative materials are healthy for people and planet.

Trash Into Sustainable Treasure

In a move away from biomass/renewable feedstock, which produces intermediate chemicals (e.g. polyethylene terephthalate, or PET) that are then used to make plastics, companies are focusing on plastic alternatives to make recyclable and biodegradable packaging.

Companies like Sulapac are developing packing material from sustainable forest residues. With $1 million in seed funding, there’s no telling what else this company can create.

One of our favorite ideas comes straight from the sea, but don’t worry, there’s no possibility of overfishing here. Ooho, a UK startup, created water bubble out of seaweed in order to turn it into plastic bottles! It is cheaper and more efficient than regular plastic. Notpla is another company turning to seaweed to create a moisture resistant lining for biodegradable kraft takeout containers. The seaweed-lined takeout containers are water and grease resistant and can be used in the microwave. To increase the availability of seaweed, companies like Blue Evolution are harnessing the power of seaweed by using regenerative ocean farming techniques.

This cleverness extends to Holy Lama, a company that takes fallen palm leaves and transforms them into soap containers. Arekapak is using this same sustainable material to develop packaging for fruits and veggies.

Packing materials is another area where we rely far too heavily on plastic and styrofoam, often the most abundant material found in the environment. Luckily alternatives are in the works including 100% compostable mushroom foam! We love mushrooms in our lunches and hopefully soon, in our Amazon shipments too!

No End in Sight

Companies are working tirelessly to develop non-plastic alternatives for us to use and enjoy. 42% of the general public knows companies should prioritize recyclable packaging and that number will only continue to grow.

Our dependence on plastic is coming to its foregone conclusion. It’s just a matter of time.

Sources: Greenway, Shelly. “13 Plastic Packaging Alternatives.” Zhang, Leo. “From Bioplastics To Plastic Alternatives – Recent Investment Snapshot Of Alternative Packaging Solutions.”

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