TECHNOLOGY / WASTE

Why We’re Excited About BioPlastics

Collins Dictionary’s ‘Word Of The Year’ for 2018 was actually two words. Single-use. It refers to the plastic products that we use once then throw away –  plastic bags, cups, straws and a myriad of items that we use every day.

ALEX GASH

Founder

The problem with single-use is that a significant proportion of it ends up in the world’s seas and oceans. 

The Problem

  • 8 million tonnes of plastic are tipped into the sea every year
  • Plastic makes up much of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating accumulation of refuse three times the size of France, located off the coast of California
  • Experts predict that by 2020 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish (by weight)

Plastics in the ocean cause numerous problems for marine life and humans. If we carry on in this way, we’ll create a toxic planet, a wasteland like the one depicted in the Pixar movie Wall-E.

However, humans are fighting to reverse this damage, especially since the BBC’s Blue Planet 2 documentary highlighted to the wider world the harm we are doing. There are grassroots movements, like the Wasteland campaign by Surfers Against Sewage. Plus, a tech solution has emerged in the war against waste. Ethical packaging.


What Is Ethical Packaging?

Packaging products that do not harm the environment, during manufacture or after use.

Ethical packaging should be:

Biodegradable (or compostable) 🍌

Made from sustainable materials 🌳

Significantly extends the life of a product 💌


It’s also desirable for this packaging to be reusable, although some will be single-use, such as disposable cups or plates.

Future products need to be biodegradable because plastic recycling has dropped dramatically. Since China stopped processing the world’s plastic in 2018, the rest of the world has to find a new solution. Plus, recycling doesn’t actually fix the problem of single-use plastic, it only delays the inevitable trip to landfill.

Some ethical replacements for single-use plastic products are very simple. If you’ve been to a bar or restaurant recently, you’ve probably seen paper straws. However, innovative tech is taking ethical packaging to the next level.


What Are Bioplastics?

Bioplastics are not made from petroleum, but from organic materials, including:

Ethical packaging should be:

Corn starch

Woodchips

Food waste

Vegetable fats and oils

Used conventional plastics

Packaging companies need to increase the manufacturing of ethical packaging for cups, straws, clingfilm, plates and bags.

Bioplastics are recyclable, biodegradable and compostable. In addition, bioplastics’ manufacturing process is more environmentally friendly than that of petroleum-based plastics.


Why The Plastic Problem Matters

The harm caused by single-use plastics is an urgent, global problem. It’s not just a disgusting rubbish dump in the middle of the Pacific, miles away from you.

It’s affecting you, today. When single-use plastics find their way into the sea, they can be eroded by the currents and the salt in the sea water. Tiny, often microscopic, particles of plastic break off and are whisked away.

These are called microplastics. Plankton swallow microplastics, then fish and other species of marine life eat the plankton, so plastic ends up inside their stomachs too. Their stomachs can’t break the plastic down, so they get sick. If these fish are caught and consumed by humans, then the plastic ends up inside us as well. This toxifies an entire food chain that includes you and I.

A study from the University of Vienna found that humans could have up to nine different plastics in our bodies, building up in our gastrointestinal tracts, causing damage to our immune systems.

This is why it is imperative that we reduce the amount of plastic being dumped into our oceans. Ethical packaging and bioplastics are crucial to achieving this goal.


Bioplastics Innovators

Here are three companies leading the way in bringing ethical packaging to a wider market:

Mimica Touch

Designed to reduce food waste. Mimica Touch is a gelatine strip that tells you when your food or drink has gone off, rather than the arbitrary expiry date on the packaging.

Tipa

Tipa has designed packaging that looks like plastic, feels like plastic, but is entirely compostable.

Plantics

Bioplastics made from 100% renewable resources. Plantics’ products are also totally biodegradable.


More To Do

Much more needs to be done if we are going to reverse the harm we are doing to our planet through single-use and plastics in general.

Government intervention, like the EU ban on some single-use plastic products from 2021, is welcome but needs to be sustained. There should also be more buy-in from corporates, such as petroleum giants who love to advertise about how green they are.

Multinationals need to practise what they preach; it can’t just be left to startups. However, we are moving towards a goal of eliminating single-use plastics, with ethical packaging emerging as a perfect replacement. Ethical packaging is better for the planet and it’s better for us.


More To Do

Well, as well as being a concerned citizen and surfer who loves the water, I’m also part of London’s tech marketing community. I’ve always believed that innovative technology has the potential to solve big problems in the world, and they don’t come any bigger than this. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of our planet is at stake. 

I’m looking to work with entrepreneurs and visionaries in the eco-tech space. I want to help you spread the word about the amazing work you are doing. I also want to help you raise investment so you can carry on with your mission. If any of this resonates with you, let’s make a time to talk.


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