Notpla is on a mission to make packaging disappear. Founded in London in 2014, this seaweed pioneer famously won the Earthshot Prize in the category of “Build a Waste-Free World” last December, as revealed by Prince William and announced by David Beckham. Quite an achievement for the company, for seaweed, the packaging industry, and indeed the planet.
Pierre Paslier, co-founder and co-CEO of Notpla, kindly took the time to talk about this wonderful company and its aim to make single-use plastics a thing of the past.
How did Notpla come to life and what are the core values of your company?
At Notpla, our mission is to make packaging disappear by providing sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic packaging. We are a sustainable packaging start-up that was created out of a need to address the plastic problem and leverage the power of nature to create natural and even edible packaging solutions using seaweed-based material.
Notpla was founded by Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez and Pierre Paslier, who met while studying Innovation Design Engineering at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art.
It all started with the idea for Ooho, which encapsulates water in an edible membrane made from seaweed, during a student project in 2013. After the first video of an edible bubble encapsulating water went viral, we collaborated with chemists and chemical engineers from Imperial College to develop our first product, Ooho.
In 2019, the brand Notpla was born, an abbreviation of ‘not plastic,’ accompanied by an identity and brand strategy that better represents our mission and values and positions us as an environmental sustainability leader. Our partnerships with Lucozade and Just Eat have allowed us to replace single-use plastic cups and bottles and revolutionise the takeaway industry with seaweed-coated food containers.
Your packaging solutions are made from seaweed and “disappear naturally” – tell us more about the production process
Our packaging products are made using seaweed as the primary resource, along with plant extracts.
Seaweed is a rapidly growing material that does not compete with food crops, requires no fresh water or fertilisers and actively contributes to de-acidifying our oceans.
“Seaweed is a rapidly growing material that does not compete with food crops”
Our products are biodegradable within 4-6 weeks and do not leave behind microplastics or waste for centuries, making them a more sustainable alternative to traditional packaging options. We are proud to say that our packaging products never create problematic end-of-life. They are home compostable and have even been tested in a whale gut simulation for the TOM FORD Plastic Innovation Prize.
You state that each of your products responds to a specific plastic problem – could you give us some insights on how NotPla can help solve plastic pollution on a global scale?
By offering sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic products, we are contributing to the reduction of plastic pollution on a global scale.
Our products are designed to address specific plastic pollution problems, such as single-use beverage packaging, wasteful sauce pots and condiment sachets, and unsustainable food service packaging. For example, by using our seaweed-based Ooho for beverages consumers can avoid using single-use plastic packaging that ends up in landfills or polluting our oceans.
“…we make packaging disappear!”
Notpla Coating offers a sustainable solution for takeaway food containers and our Seaweed Paper is a better alternative to recycled paper. By offering these products we are reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in our environment and ultimately – we make packaging disappear!
Most recently, you cooperated with Lucozade and Just Eat – how did you experience these cooperations and what are you looking for in new partnerships?
We are thrilled to have collaborated with Lucozade and Just Eat Takeaway.com, two companies that share our mission of reducing plastic waste. Through our partnerships, we were able to introduce our Ooho at the London Marathon, replacing 36,000 plastic bottles from entering the environment.
We have also managed to expand and access markets in Europe through our partnership with Just Eat Takeaway.com. To date, we have entered 8 markets including the UK and Ireland, and have sold more than 1 million boxes on their platform. Through our partnership with Just Eat Takeaway.com, we were also able to replace all of the plastic-lined containers at the Women’s Euros final at Wembley in 2022.
We aim to achieve mass adoption of our materials to have a significant impact on single-use plastic. To expand into industries such as food, cosmetics, personal care, and home care. When looking for new partnerships we want to work with companies that share our purpose and values and implement these into their work and message.
In December 2021 you closed a £10 million Series A financing round. How are you using these funds to fuel your mission?
We are using the Series A financing round to fuel our mission of industrialising sustainable packaging alternatives. This funding is helping us to accelerate the commercialisation of our existing products, such as Notpla coating, while also supporting the industrialisation of new innovative Notpla products such as Notpla Film and Notpla Paper.
“We believe that the power of seaweed is unmatched in its ability to address the problem of plastic pollution”
With this investment, we can grow our manufacturing capacity and develop even further our new solutions while continuing to replace single-use plastic.
We believe that the power of seaweed is unmatched in its ability to address the problem of plastic pollution. We are excited to continue pushing the boundaries of sustainable packaging with our products. It has also supported the expansion of the Notpla team, to currently 70 members, increasing our expertise with more chemists, engineers and designers amongst other roles.
Could you give us an insight into your sales expectations for 2023?
In 2023, we aim for the sales of our Notpla Coating and Notpla Film to increase and expand, while also entering into new industries with these products. Our ambition is to reach a global scale by scaling our commercialisation efforts, entering new markets, and convincing key stakeholders within the packaging industry to adopt our innovative packaging solutions.
We are also about to launch new exciting products with some partners, among them an energy gel with Decathlon, the international sporting goods retailer. We are confident in the continued growth and success of our company as we strive to make a positive impact on the environment and reduce plastic waste.
What are the key differences between NotPla and BioPlastics?
Notpla and Bioplastics have fundamental differences. Notpla, unlike bioplastics, is not a plastic material. According to the definition provided by the European Commission’s Single-Use Plastic Directive, Notpla is a natural polymer that has not undergone any chemical modification, just like cellulose from trees is used to make paper. Notpla is similar to natural organic materials such as fruit peels. Notpla is biodegradable in nature without needing any human-controlled conditions like industrial composting, and can also be home compostable.
Where do you see your role in the future of packaging and what are your goals for the next 5 years?
As a sustainable packaging company, we aim to make a pivotal change in the future of packaging. We want to lead the way in providing truly sustainable alternative packaging solutions around the world, and that’s where our goal lies for the next five years. Expanding our reach globally via commercialisation, entering new markets, and convincing key stakeholders in the industry that our packaging is the one they should adopt.
“We want to lead the way in providing truly sustainable alternative packaging solutions around the world”
Alongside this, we also want to ensure that our responsibility goes beyond the production of sustainable packaging – we want to be a voice of change, and make sure that this change is happening in the right way. We will leverage our story and role to encourage others to join us in this fight against sing;e-use plastic and help reshape behaviour and policy around it. Ultimately, our goal is to make packaging disappear, creating a world where sustainable packaging is the norm, and single-use plastics are a thing of the past.