Inspired by orange peel, this ‘plastic’ packaging is totally compostable

plastic pollution 19

(Unsplash, 2019)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Joe Myers, Writer, Formative Content


What do you think of when you think of orange peel? Probably not a lot – it keeps the inside safe and juicy, right?

Well, exactly.

TIPA, a new World Economic Forum Tech Pioneer, has been inspired by orange peel to solve one of the most-talked about global problems – single-use plastic packaging.

More a-peeling than plastic

The company has developed an alternative to flexible plastic packaging, made from bio-material, that it says is fully compostable.

Most flexible packaging – think the packaging around fresh produce or coffee – can’t be recycled, because it’s made from layers of material. (Rigid packaging for food is generally more recyclable.)

 

TIPA says its packaging can be turned into compost in 6 months in an industrial composting facility.

Image: TIPA

Just like real plastic

According to TIPA, it’s “just as transparent, durable and impermeable as conventional plastic packaging. It works for dry, baked and frozen goods, including fruits and vegetables, apparel and other products.”

This is vital if alternatives to plastic are going to take off. They need to protect food and maintain shelf life and hygiene in the same way as existing plastic packaging, and also fit seamlessly into existing production processes and logistics chains.

TIPA, set up in 2010 by Daphna Nissenbaum and Tal Neuman to address the plastic waste challenge, currently offers alternatives for everything from cereal bar packaging to magazine wrappers.

Image: TIPA

The scale of the problem

Only a small fraction of the plastic we’ve ever produced has been recycled. According to a 2017 study, since large-scale production began in the middle part of the last century, humans have created in excess of 8 billion metric tons of plastic.

In that time, more than 6 billion tons have become waste. And here’s the problem – just 9% of that is thought to have been recycled. The rest has either been burned (12%) or sits in landfill (79%).

Much of it also ends up in the ocean – about 13 million tonnes every year, according to UN Environment.

Plastic

What is the World Economic Forum doing about ending plastic pollution?

More than 90% of plastic is never recycled, and a whopping 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans annually. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.

The World Economic Forum has played a crucial role in connecting TerraCycle, a global waste management and recycling company, with logistics giant UPS and some of the world’s leading retailers and consumer goods companies (including Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Carrefour, Tesco, Mondelēz, PepsiCo, Danone, Mars, Nestlé and Unilever) to develop and pilot a revolutionary zero-waste e-commerce system called Loop.

Loop promotes responsible consumption and eliminates waste by introducing a new way for consumers to purchase, enjoy and recycle their favorite products. Instead of relying on single-use packaging, it delivers products to consumers’ doorsteps in durable packaging that is collected, cleaned, refilled and reused, sometimes more than 100 times.

The Forum is helping the Loop Alliance bring the Loop model to cities around the world. Read more in our Impact Story.

Partner with us and join the global mission to end plastic pollution.

A 2017 World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation report calls for us to change how we design packaging, improve recycling systems and introduce new models for making better use of packaging.

In effect, we need to go round in circles.

Building a circular economy

A circular economy aims to reduce waste by “designing better materials, products, systems and business models”.

This means that rather than things being thrown away, they’re reused, repaired or recycled – which impacts every stage of a product’s life cycle.

Circular economy

What is a circular economy?

The global population is expected to reach close to 9 billion people by 2030 – inclusive of 3 billion new middle-class consumers.This places unprecedented pressure on natural resources to meet future consumer demand.

A circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. It replaces the end-of-life concept with restoration, shifts towards the use of renewable energy, eliminates the use of toxic chemicals and aims for the elimination of waste through the superior design of materials, products, systems and business models.

Nothing that is made in a circular economy becomes waste, moving away from our current linear ‘take-make-dispose’ economy. The circular economy’s potential for innovation, job creation and economic development is huge: estimates indicate a trillion-dollar opportunity.

The World Economic Forum has collaborated with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for a number of years to accelerate the Circular Economy transition through Project MainStream – a CEO-led initiative that helps to scale business driven circular economy innovations.

Join our project, part of the World Economic Forum’s Shaping the Future of Environment and Natural Resource Security System Initiative, by contacting us to become a member or partner.

Image: World Economic Forum

And TIPA is not alone among the new Tech Pioneers in trying to make the world a little more circular. Black Bear Carbon Black, for example, upcycles old tyres to produce Carbon Black, which is in all manner of products from ink to keyboard buttons.

GHGSat is more on the policing side – its satellites and aircraft monitor emissions and can deliver analysis of specific sites.

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