Plastic rubbish is everywhere — streets, rivers, beaches, stomachs of cows and whales.
Around 60% of the 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic produced since the early 1950s has ended up in landfills or the natural environment, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
A large part of that is packaging material, which is what over 40% of plastic is used for.
Plastic takes tens, or even hundreds, of years to completely degrade.
This is why scientists, companies and governments are in search of packaging options that do not take such a heavy toll on the environment.
It is safe to assume that by 2030, some of those will have seen wide adoption.
Notpla, a London-based packaging company, has developed edible pods and sachets made from seaweed for water, juices and ketchup.
There are other companies developing sandwich wraps and straws from seaweed, and spoons and cups from cane sugar.
The other big task is finding sustainable alternatives to singleuse, multi-layer packaging used for chips, biscuits, etc, which is among the hardest to recycle.
Tipa, headquartered in Hod Hasharon, Israel, has developed fully compostable flexible packaging for food and fashion.
Made from plant- and fossil-based polymers, Tipa’s products decompose within a few months. “I think that in 10 years from now, only the plastic that adapts to the changing market will survive.
Eventually, plastic will be used in very limited segments where it can be re-used,” says Daphna Nissenbaum, cofounder and chief executive of Tipa.
She adds that providing compostable packaging for liquids or products with a high water base or having a long shelf life is still a challenge.
The size of the global sustainable packaging industry is expected to reach around $240 billion by 2024, from $168 billion in 2018, according to market research firm IMARC Group.
And consumer brands, which increasingly want to be seen as sustainable and are reducing and recycling plastic packaging, are key to that.
Equally important is making the switch to plastic substitutes.
But that can only happen if these alternatives become as versatile and cheap as plastic
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