Home Seaweed-based Packaging

Changing consumer behavior due to health and environmental concerns globally has made way for growth in seaweed-based packaging.

Seaweed-based packaging as an eco-friendly replacement for plastic is quite feasible. Seaweed can grow in both seawater and freshwater, is inert, and doesn’t require any additional media for its growth. It is also packed with a plethora of vitamins, fiber, and minerals, allowing the possibility of producing edible packaging. The natural polysaccharides obtained from seaweeds such as alginates, carrageenan, ulvans, fucoidans, and laminarins are enormously significant in the film-forming ability of seaweeds. The growth and utilization of seaweed ease the waste management process as its biodegradable and the packaging can be naturally decomposed. This reduction in the production of plastic will directly contribute towards a reduction in gas emissions and the contamination of soil, water, and air. Some studies have reported that it takes a hectare of the ocean to create 40 tons of dry seaweed. During processing, that same volume can absorb 20.7 tons of CO2 emissions.

The only major drawback owing to the production of seaweed is its cost. Seaweed packaging requires manual processing to some extent and the process of scaling- up is still in pilot-scale.

A forward-thinking approach to addressing environmental issues associated with plastic waste

Edible seaweed packaging is gaining traction as a sustainable alternative to traditio...

Seaweed packaging startups that are thriving

Sway [US]

Sway makes seaweed-based packaging an alternative to plastics. The start-up secured funding of about $2.5 million in a seed round led by Valor Siren Ventures. The funding would support the development of two compostable products, retail, and polybags. The products are set to undergo pilot trials in the upcoming year. The startup is still improving its formulation and will use its funding switch from the lab to pilot-scale production. The startup claims that the seaweed-based material has stronger tensile strength compared to low-density polyethylene, which is utilized for packaging film and grocery bags. The team has also run early tests showing that the material can quickly biodegrade in a backyard and can also be compostable. Sway bags when put into the soil can act as an excellent soil improver. Sway uses multiple species of seaweeds to vibrantly color their products, promoting the use of natural pigments as opposed to toxic dyes. Sway’s products are non-toxic, compostable, highly durable, and carbon negative.

Loliware [US]

Partners and product designers Chelsea Briganti and Leigh Ann Tucker, jointly designed the edible cups made from seaweed product- agar (seaweed gel) and made them more aesthetically pleasing by adding yummy flavors such as grapefruit, vanilla, cherry, and more. They are the world’s leading seaweed material technology aiming to replace single-use plastics. The Startup has also designed biodegradable, edible straws that are made with seaweed, in a process that adheres to the principles of the circular economy. These straws come in three derivatives such as the-Blue, carbon straw, Mother of pearl straw, and the carbon delete straw. Loliware uses its proprietary technology for the production of its edible cup.

Methodology for the production of the edible seaweed cup as mentioned in the patent:

Notpla (Ooho!) [UK]

Notpla is a company that makes sustainable packaging from seaweed and other plants. The products are made from seaweed which can be consumed or composted naturally. Notpla is the startup that made Ooho! And has been rebranded as Notpla which is short for not plastic. Notpla is made from renewable brown seaweed, which can grow up to 1m in the ocean without any media and the need for freshwater. Seaweeds also contribute towards the deacidification of the ocean and promote the production of oxygen by consuming carbon dioxide for its growth. The seaweed-based packaging can degrade within 4 weeks and is an excellent soil ameliorant too.

Notpla coating is also made from seaweed and is designed to make packaging made from bioplastic or plastic, a biodegradable coating that makes it greaseproof and water-resistant.

The Notpla takeaway boxes are designed to be sustainable and compostable.

Notpla oil pipettes are designed to hold oil in squeezable variants which can be kept in restaurant takeaway and lunch boxes. The Notpla films are designed to be compostable and biodegradable and can be used to pack dry and wet food consumables. They can dissolve in water and come in natural variants that are scented and flavored. They also have hot water and cold water soluble packaging sachets which can be used to pack instant coffee powders or seasoning condiments.

Notpla has a variety of products such as the Notpla sachets, Ohoo, the Notpla coating, and the Notpla takeaway boxes.

The Notpla sachets are made especially for sauces, condiments, and salad dressings. Made with seaweed they are biodegradable and can be decomposed naturally. The capacity of these sachets is from 10 to 60ml. Notpla has partnered with Heinz ketchup.

Notpla recently received funding of $1.32 Mn, led by Horizons Ventures and with the participation of Asantor ventures, Lupa systems, and Torch capitals. The funding aims to commercialize the Ohoo and other Notpla coating and packaging.

The manufacturing machine which produces Ohoo sachets can manufacture in various ranges from 15-100ml. Once tested and scaled up, Notpla believes in expanding its business model to lease these materials and sell cartridges of the materials to food manufacturing companies to facilitate ease of manufacturing their products of sauces, condiments, and drinks in the Notpla containers.

Evoware (Indonesia)

This Indonesian start-up aims to ease the waste management of plastic packaging by creating edible packaging from seaweed. Evoware’s edible packaging is environmentally friendly and nutritious as seaweed is rich in flavonoids, fiber, and antioxidants. Indonesia is the world’s second-largest contributor to ocean pollution. Most of the waste found here comes from plastic food containers and packaging. Evoware makes food packaging and containers which are made of indigenous seaweed. This edible packaging is biodegradable, packed with nutrients and if disposed of, can be an excellent soil ameliorant. Evoware products are certified halal, which is significant for Muslim populations, wherein a majority of the Indonesian population are concerned. It doesn’t contain any animal derivative and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Evoware’s products are made from seaweed, which doesn’t require arable land for its cultivation. Seaweed grows without the necessity for the addition of media. Seaweed improves air quality as they absorb carbon dioxide to produce oxygen.

Evoware sources its seaweed locally from Indonesian farmers and hence improves the livelihood of seaweed farmers.

They have launched multiple products such as the Ello jello cups, seasoning sachets, burger wraps, single-serving instant coffee powder sachets, and also for packaging non-food products such as straws, sanitary napkins, soaps, and toothpicks. The Ello jello cups come in exciting flavors such as green tea, lychee, and orange. The food wraps and edible sachets are colorless, odorless, and inert and hence can be used to pack flavorful seasonings. The edible seasoning sachets can be used directly as they dissolve into hot water, without interfering with the taste of the final product. The company was founded in 2016 and its headquarters is in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Production of packaging from seaweed

Fossil fuels can be explored for the production of biodegradable polymers such as polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxy butyrate (PHB) that is degraded by certain microorganisms and can be returned to nature in some time. On the other hand, bio-based plastics are essentially made from biological resources such as polysaccharides/protein and other polyesters extracted from plants, and marine organisms. These bio-based polymers are degraded easily and are non-toxic in nature. Seaweed is inherently rich in antioxidants, fibers, and polysaccharides that are strong and resilient. The combination of seaweed along with certain biodegradable polymers could offer a sustainable and superior advantage to packaging materials compared to conventional ones. The major advantage of seaweed-based packaging materials is that they can be made edible without the use of any adulterants or preservatives.

The properties of natural edible films can be enhanced by the addition of aromatic substances, flavor-enhancing agents, nutritional substances, antioxidant agents, or antimicrobial agents.

Conventional methods for the production of seaweed packaging included the usage of chemicals and heat treatment to extract the polysaccharides from that seaweed. Latest technologies use benign fermentation to promote the extraction of polysaccharides without the use of harsh chemicals. The yeast residues post-fermentation are used as animal residue, facilitating a circular economy without any wastage.

Reasons to switch from plastics to edible seaweed packaging

Customers prefer edible seaweed packaging over plastic ones due to this reason:

High consumption of processed, ready-to-eat foods: Global urbanization has created jobs and has improved the lifestyle of many individuals. This adds to a fast-paced life which in turn increases the dependence on processed food. Processed foods generally come in plastic packaging which can be highly polluting. This has resulted in an increase in demand for sustainable, edible, seaweed-based packaging.

Rise in hygiene conditions: Plastic causes pollution, this has motivated people to promote the production and use of edible packaging that can be eaten or composted. This can prevent various community and infectious diseases.

Elimination of waste cycle: Plastic waste needs to be either recycled, reused or usage should be reduced. But mostly in developing countries, the waste is either incinerated or dumped in landfills. This can be the cause of groundwater leaching, harmful air, and soil pollution. Edible packaging does not require either of the waste management roles. The edible packaging can be consumed or it can be composted. Edible packaging can be fortified with vitamins and minerals and can be made more palatable with different flavors.

Environmental Reasons: The production of plastic-based packaging requires fossil fuel, the world’s annual consumption of plastic materials has increased from approximately five million tonnes in the 1950s to nearly 230 million tonnes today. The amount of non-biodegradable waste generated is incomprehensible. Plastic food packaging is the most significant contributor to plastic waste. The necessity of seaweed-based edible packaging is extremely important owing to these conditions.


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  7. Evoware


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