25 February 2021
Good news! The winner of the Green Challenge of the broadcaster Omroep Max’s new TV programme Iedereen Kan Het! (anyone can do it!) has thought up a clever solution for single-use food packaging – seaweed packaging.
Ayça Dündar of SoluBlue, a British start-up, could hardly believe it when she heard that she would get half a million euros to develop her seaweed packaging. The second prize (two hundred thousand euros) went to Jiva Materials Limited that has developed a fibrous material for printing plates that dissolves in water. This makes them easier to recycle.
The prize money comes from the Dutch National Postal Code Lottery. The other finalists also did not go home empty handed. Watch the programme here (partly in Dutch, partly in English).
WITH ONE STONE
By developing packaging made of seaweed, SoluBlue killed two birds with one stone. The packaging is completely biodegradable and the food that it contains stays fresh longer.
plastic food packaging has two major disadvantages. The first is that it
becomes part of the plastic pollution problem as it does not break down in the
environment. The second is that it often condenses on the inside. While food in
plastic stays fresher for longer than unpackaged food, the contents start
getting mouldy after a while.
packed in the seaweed packaging stays fresh longer than it does in plastic
packaging. Instead of forming mould, the food starts drying out and stays
usable even when dried. So food does not need to be thrown away anymore while
about one third of all the food currently produced around the world is wasted.
The company claims that tomatoes, for example, will stay fresh for three months. Unfortunately, the seaweed packaging is not suitable for packaging liquids.
SEAWEED PACKAGING IS EDIBLE
even a third advantage. The seaweed packaging is edible so it can be used for
cattle feed, for example. You can also throw it on the compost and, should it
end up in the environment or the sea, it will biodegrade within a few weeks.
Given that the material is digestible, any animal that eats it will not suffer
any negative side effects. In addition, the fact that the packaging can be
thrown away with leftover food makes cooking and cleaning the kitchen a lot
PLASTIC IS TOO CHEAP
will undoubtedly use the prize money to scale up its production process.
However, the production costs will remain higher than those of traditional
plastic that is produced from cheap fossil fuels.
Multinationals such as Unilever and Nestlé are likely to assess the costs of the packaging and will not embrace this option quickly for this reason.
We need to
move to the closed circular economy and this packaging material will be
absorbed in the natural circular system. It could not be better. It is thus up
to governments to push industry. Without financial measures that discourage the
use of plastic and that incentivise real alternatives, we will not see seaweed packaging
on the shelves for a while.
You may be