Single-use plastic waste, when improperly disposed of, is the cause of massive environmental issues. Plastic waste that enters the oceans not only endangers sea life, but also breaks down into microplastics which then enter the food chain.
There are two main ways we can stop plastics entering the ocean. We can either not produce them in the first place, or we can dispose of them properly after they’ve finished serving their purpose. Disposing of them means either recycling the type of plastics which can be recycled, or biodegrading plastics which can be biodegraded.
The majority of single-use plastic is made for food packaging. Many parts of the retail sector are moving towards more environmentally friendly, non-plastic packaging options, and so are not requiring single-use plastics to be produced in the first place. Food retailers such as supermarkets can’t change quite as easily. This is because plastic packaging plays a critical role in maintaining food safety and quality, and therefore helps reduce food waste.
Single-use plastics for food packaging are often difficult-to-recycle ‘soft plastics’. While some soft plastics are technically biodegradable, that bio-degradation can only happen in a purpose-built facility - not in a backyard compost heap. If those soft-plastics don’t end up in one of those bio-degradation facilities, they have the potential to cause as much environmental harm as non-biodegradable plastics. Beyond that, biodegradable plastics are made from land-based crops, which limit the amount of space available for food production.
Kelpn is striving to create a soft plastic food packaging alternative that is truly compostable - that can safely breakdown anywhere in the environment- but which can also keep food safe and fresh just as effectively as conventional plastic packaging.
We are using certain types of seaweeds as our raw material, and so producing our plastic will not affect total food production in New Zealand. The species of seaweed we are using grows prolifically around New Zealand, and benefits the environment directly as an effective carbon sequestration tool.