In a bid to offer sustainable alternatives to conventional packaging, suppliers are looking to natural materials, including seaweed, for inspiration. With the best scenario being entirely home-compostable products, with easily-recyclable coming second, innovative composition is essential.
Packaging startups are proving to be open to regenerative materials and excited by the opportunity to develop something new. This is why seaweed is having an undeniable moment right now. Capable of growing around 60 times faster than land-based crops and sequestering up to 20 times more carbon per acre than forests, seaweed is a sustainability champion. It also happens to be a versatile base for countless packaging applications.
The following are 10 seaweed packaging startups that are pushing the natural material to its limits in order to find a sustainable solution for the planet’s packaging needs:
Founded by Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez and Pierre Paslier as an offshoot of their Skipping Rocks Lab, Notpla started as a product concept. It evolved into a standalone idea and was given the name, relating to “not plastic”, in 2019. The company is based in London.
Seaweed is harvested from Europe, in accordance with partners Seaweed for Europe and the Safe Seaweed Coalition. Notpla favours farmed options to support large quantity demands and maintain sustainable practices. Various species are used and ecosystems are protected through judicious harvesting of only the crowns of plants.
Sauce sachets, Ooho biodegradable and edible single-use liquid packaging, biodegradable cardboard coating (for water and greaseproof functionality), home-compostable takeaway boxes, paper, pipettes and films. All are 100% biodegradable and made using seaweed.
Initially crowdfunded with £850,000, the latest Series A round (December 2021) pulled in £10 million. Funds were allocated to commercial scale-up.
Commercially sold and partnered with Just Eat UK to trial compostable takeaway boxes.
Guy Maurice founded B’zeos in 2018. The Oslo-based startup was initiated to end reliance on single-use plastics by developing a natural alternative.
Seaweed is harvested and farmed within Norway, to mitigate raw material carbon footprint. Prototyping began the year of conception thanks to a grant. The same year, a Norwegian seaweed supplier was secured. 2019 saw an initial partnership with Nestlé, followed by an EU grant win. A second contract with Nestlé in 2021 saw market entry occur.
Edible plastic-free drinking straws and food films. All are bio-edible and fully home-compostable.
Four grants so far. The most recent drew in €1.6 million for development of algae-based films for packaging containers.
Currently supplying industrial partners including Nestlé.
Californian startup Sway is female-led and environmentally motivated. The company has developed a USP in the form of using various colours of seaweed to create a range of finished product options. This does not impact the inherent biodegradability of every line. Co-founder Julia Marsh describes seaweed as a “benevolent resource”.
Sway partners with communities negatively impacted by overfishing and with ecosystem erosion in place. They are supported in the cultivation of seaweed, which requires little equipment and no pesticides.
Poly and retail bags.
November 2021 saw a $2.5 million seed round successfully completed.
Capability trials are set to begin with brand partners in 2022.
Co-located in Puerto Rico and the US, C-Combinator (or Carbonwave) focusses on leveraging seaweed at scale for profitable and sustainable innovations. The company claims to be the answer to an oil-free future. The company grows, collects and processes seaweed itself and harvests it for a range of applications. Founded by Geoff Chapin, operations are headquartered in Puerto Rico but also present in Mexico and Boston.
Alongside fertilisers, biostimulants, emulsifiers and vegan leather, nanocellulose is manufactured. The latter has packaging applications, acting as a moisture barrier when added to cardboard and paper.
$217,000 raised last year through crowdfunding.
Field testing continues.
Carlo Fedeli founded FlexSea in London, in 2021. Focussing on single-use plastic as something to be replaced, the company created a film made from seaweed. It is edible, home-compostable and entirely recyclable. If it finds itself back in the ocean, it can be safely eaten by sealife. FlexSea is cited as being best suited to the storage of dry goods. Semi-dry goods can be accounted for as well. The film is printable.
Seaweed is sustainably harvested in line with a safe seaweed coalition partnership.
A biomaterial that replaces plastic film in packaging solutions. The film biodegrades in 12 weeks, maximum. It is heat-sealable to make bags.
An undisclosed amount was raised in May 2021.
The company is contactable for enquiries.
Scottish startup Oceanium uses only seaweed collected by vetted sustainable farmer partners. All hail from the western hemisphere to prevent large carbon footprints. The company was founded by Karen Scofield Seal and Dr. Charlie Bavington in 2018.
Oceanium plans to process 150 million tonnes of european seaweed every year, once processes are refined.
A range called Ocean Ware is being developed to replace plastic with limited end-of-life options. Prototypes are in progress with film anticipated and other applications possible. All items will be suitable for food waste disposal, adding nutrients to the soil as they decompose.
$3.7 million has been raised via seed funding. A further €2.1 million EU grant was awarded for full scale-up from pilot to production capability within the next two years.
To be confirmed, after successful prototyping.
Making straws that are designed to last for hours, not years, New York’s Loliware has honed in on a specific market. Made from seaweed, the straws are “hypercompostable”. Leigh Ann Tucker and Chelsea Briganti founded the company, which has appeared on SharkTank in the U.S. and initially made edible cups. That project has since been finished to focus on sustainable seaweed straws.
Seaweed is sourced from a sustainable global supply chain that is fully regulated and overseen by relevant governments. Loliware is designed to entirely replace paper and plastic straws, both of which have a negative impact. Seaweed straws last 24 hours and fully break down in one week.
Plastic-free straws in various colours.
$6 million was scooped in 2020 to refocus Loliware on biodegradable straws. The company clinched $600,000 for its edible cups, when appearing on Shark Tank.
Tasteless, heat-resistant straws are available now, direct from Loliware.
An Indonesian startup, Evoware is a brand that falls under the Evo & Co umbrella. It was founded in 2016 with a view to replacing single-use plastics within the packaging sphere. Gv Indonesia is cited by Ecoware as being the second biggest plastic polluter in the world. Seaweed farmers in the country are often poor and undersupported. Ecoware aims to reconcile the two issues by sourcing seaweed locally, paying a fair rate for it and preventing more plastic entering Indonesia’s waters.
The Ello Jello seaweed-based disposable cup was the first successful development. Cups are vegan-friendly and available in a range of colours. In addition to Ello Jello, seaweed sheeting is produced. It can be turned into sachets or bags, being heat-sealable. Both styles are home-compostable, zero waste and made from sustainable seaweed. Sister brand Evoworld produces a range of sustainable packaging solutions made from sugarcane and other non-seaweed materials.
Seed funding from ANGO Ventures was confirmed in 2021, but the amount was undisclosed.
Developed products are available now.
Founded by husband and wife team Ayça Dündar and Francis Field, SoluBlue is a British startup that emerged in 2018. It seeks to offer alternatives to a vast scope of single-use packaging, across multiple industries. Food, clothing and cosmetics are all cited.
Seaweed is sourced through an exclusive relationship with the world’s leading supplier. Farming methods are certified organic and high social welfare credentials are met.
Clear polymer sheeting that looks and performs like plastic. It can be heat-sealed and turned into bags. Rigid packaging is also produced, including trays, containers, punnets, straws and lids.
SoluBlue won a €500,000 prize from the Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge in 2020. Funds were used to scale technology to allow for pilot packaging trials with industry partners.
B2B availability is confirmed with Solublue offering turnkey packaging solutions for industrial partners.
Neil Morris and co-founder Murray Kenneth founded Kelpi in 2020, in the U.K. The company has partnered with the University of Bath, which is already employed in the research of seaweed-based bioplastics.
Seaweed-based composite film that can be turned into a variety of packaging solutions is anticipated.
A pre-seed round was completed in 2021 for an undisclosed amount. A new seed round is already planned for 2022.
Prototyping is still in progress. Commercial product lines will be determined following extensive material testing.
Lead image courtesy of Sway.