Published 2 months ago.
About a 8 minute read.
Loliware, Uuvipak and Twiice have created rapidly biodegradable (and even edible) bio-based products that completely upstage their petroleum-based, single-use plastic-polluting counterparts.
It was just over 100 years ago that Belgian chemist Leo
commercialized the first fully synthetic plastic as a replacement for shellac —
a resin with insulating properties. Thanks to their light weight, malleability
and resistance, among other properties; plastics are now a part of just about
everyone’s daily lives and just about all environments — as evidenced by the
discovery of plastic inside the bodies of fish and even
According to Earth.org, the amount of plastic we produce is equivalent to two-thirds
of humanity’s total body mass.
Meanwhile, an OECD
on plastic pollution states that between 2000 and 2019, plastic production
doubled to reach 460 million tonnes per year — 353 million tonnes of which
became waste; the packaging industry alone generates 40 percent of that.
Meanwhile, the UN
estimates that the
sorting and processing of plastic waste is costing the global economy about
$80-129 billion, of which less than 10 percent is recycled. As a result,
between 75 and 199 million tonnes are currently found in the oceans.
It’s clear that plastics need a rethink; and a growing class of innovative
startups has been rising to the challenge in recent years. Here, we look at
three such companies giving one of our most ubiquitous materials a
much-needed, circular overhaul.
Image credit: Loliware
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Fascinated by the concept of social innovation and frustrated with the
preponderance of ocean plastic pollution, Hawaii-born industrial designer
and product developer Sea Briganti decided to take the reins
by experimenting with seaweed around 2010 to produce algae-based alternatives
for single-use plastic cups.
Starting with a humble, $10,000 Kickstarter
that year, Briganti went on to launch Loliware — with its initial offering
of "biodegredible," seaweed-based
— in San Francisco in 2015 and quickly landed $600,000 in funding on the
popular startup-pitch competition show, “Shark Tank.” While the company has
shifted away from edible
Loliware quickly became a powerhouse dedicated to replacing single-use plastics
with hyper-compostable, seaweed-based resins that degrade in marine environments
within 51 days.
In 2018, Loliware was among five companies selected by the Sustainable Ocean
Alliance for its Ocean Solutions Accelerator
highlighting promising solutions to pressing ocean challenges; and in 2022, the
Clinton Global Initiative selected it for participation in its Greenhouse
As Briganti told Sustainable Brands® (SB), Loliware’s regenerative,
compostable resins are made from kelp and red algae sourced from three affiliate
seaweed farms in Norway, Spain and the Philippines that grow in 12
weeks or less.
After shifting away from edibles, the company now produces its own SeaTech resins — a one-to-one replacement for conventional, petroleum-based plastic polymers made from regenerative, carbon-capturing, ocean-farmed seaweed — which Briganti says can run on existing plastic-manufacturing equipment to make thousands of different products. Along with the resins, Loliware’s offerings now include seaweed straws — the latest incarnation of which is called the Blue Carbon Straw to “symbolize the critical role seaweed plays in tackling climate change and restoring the health of our ocean” — and an injection-molded, seaweed-based utensil set.
So far in 2023, the startup has completed a $15.4M pre-series A funding
which made it the market’s best-funded seaweed-materials tech company; was
by Engage — the collaborative corporate-venture platform backed by
Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Chick-fil-A and other industry leaders —
as a member of this year’s Enterprise Go-to-Market-Program; and launched a
partnership with José Andrés
to supply Loliware products to the chef’s restaurants across the US.
Loliware is part of an illustrious cohort of companies — including B’ZEOS,
— poised to render single-use plastic products irrelevant with their
hyper-degradable, seaweed-based innovations. As Loliware continues to grow,
Briganti says her aim is to source more seaweed domestically and use the entire
kelp biomass to keep the carbon footprint of its resins as low as possible.
Briganti told SB the dream is for Loliware to facilitate a transition towards a
new economy where Small Island Developing Nations are given the opportunity to
‘come online’ with seaweed according to “fair trade, indigenous principles and
Working with organizations including the Sustainable Packaging
Coalition, the Plant-Based Product
Council, and Living
— a biotech company supplying the algae-based ink that prints Loliware’s
packaging — Briganti recognizes the imperative for business to reshape our
relationship to plastics: “We need everyone focused on this challenge. It’s not
about Loliware — it’s about climate; it’s about plastic pollution. It’s about
creating jobs in the ocean economy; and we cannot do it alone.”
Image credit: Uuvipak
Determined to address both the plastic crisis and the fact that about a third
of all food globally produced is
Australia-based scientist Dr. Shafali
Gupta and engineer Andy
Epifani got together in 2021 to
found Uuvipak — which produces food serviceware from
upcycled food-manufacturing waste.
As the company declared in its 2022 Kickstarter
Uuvipak’s products — which include edible bowls, cups and plates — were among
the world’s first takeaway solutions made with 100 percent upcycled clean,
organic food waste.
Many existing, home-compostable alternatives are made from paper — which
requires trees to be cut down and processed with chemicals to become more water
resistant. In contrast, Uuvipak’s products are made from food byproducts
generated from manufacturing grain flour and processing juice; industry tends to
burn these waste products or send them to landfills, where they release potent
— one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Instead, after living out
their new life in Uuvipak products, these materials are free to decompose into
organic, chemical-free soil — in roughly two weeks in home compost and up to
four weeks in generic bins.
In its short tenure, Uuvipak has won $50,000 from Nespresso's inaugural
(2022); Epifani and Gupta won $10,000 in the Brisbane Young Entrepreneur
as part of the University of Queensland's 2023 Ventures Ilab Accelerator
program; and Uuvipak was
in StartUS as one of the 10 Top Biodegradable Packaging Startups to Watch in
2023. So far, the company has
raised a total of
$230K over five funding rounds.
And just in time for Climate Week NYC this week, Uuvipak was named one of Australia's Top 100 Innovators by The Australian.
Image credit: Twiice
Meanwhile, in nearby New Zealand … Inspired by a beach trip in 2017 and the
desire to reduce the 295 million single-use plastic cups thrown
year in the tiny country, Jamie
Cashmore — alongside his life
and business partner,
Simone; and his
parents, Stephen & Theresa — conceived the delicious idea of an edible
coffee cup. Five years of trial and error later,
Twiice — now
a certified B
was born; and the team decided to open a coffee bar in its Auckland HQ so
that the public could test them.
Twiice’s cookie-like cups (which come in
chocolate, double chocolate and vanilla) are made from a mix of flour, sugar,
water, natural vanilla and coconut oil; and the company says they last for as
long as you need to consume your drink — hot or cold. Unlike many other
packaging alternatives that are also safe to eat, Twiice’s flavored cups are set
to deliver a pleasurable tasting and drinking experience all in one package.
It is still early days for the startup (which didn’t respond to requests for an
interview); but according to its site, the cups can be found at a host of cafes
across New Zealand and a few in Australia; and the founders have road-tested
the cups in the UK and Europe — including
sponsoring the 2022 European Coffee Symposium and showcasing the cups at
Selfridges’ Roasting Plant roastery in London, and with a team at
Paris’ Coutume Café.
Published Sep 22, 2023 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Nina Purton is the founder of Eco Writing — a startup providing blog marketing for projects and businesses with sustainability goals. With a background in English literature and a lifelong passion for eco-friendly practices, Nina started her journey with small initiatives which resulted in collaborations with larger projects and businesses. Nina now blends her knack for creativity, research skills, and knowledge to inspire innovative and healthier interactions with the natural environment.