A ground swell of sustainable innovation is sweeping the world concerinng single use packaging. And for good reason. Since the 1950's, the onslaught of total plastic production is estimated to be 9.2 billion tons -- 6.9 billion tons of that has been thrown away. There's no doubt plastics have improved humans lives, but to what cost to the planet and its' vital ecosystems? For example, a thin plastic wrap on a cucumber increases its' shelf life by fourteen day; although, that same plastic waste will last for hundreds of year.
And what happens to all that waste? Not only do the elements breakdown plastic waste into microplastics, but so do organisms on all levels of the food chain. We've all heard the horror stories of whales dieing from plastic junk, but scientists are just now beginning to undestand how plastics impact the entire food chain. British researchers, in a controlled experiment, fed a plastic bag to a common European coastal crustacean. They discovered these little shrimp could shred one plastic bag into an astonishing 1.75 million microscopic pieces. This is not a good thing considering that wildcaught fish for human consumption rely on small sea creatures for their own diets.
Pretty much everyone on planet Earth, that's aware of the plastic pandemic, agrees something needs to be done. And fast. But since no human possesses the power of a King Orm ( The oceanic monarch in the 2018 Aquaman superhero movie) -- who, through means of a worldwide tsunami, washed mankind's waste back onto shore -- consumers, companies, and governments have no choice but to work collectively to solve the plastic problem.
Many ideas exist on how to best curtail single use packaging such as taxes, bans, and more reuseable options. Gourmet Hemp Foods, for example, has made the conscious decision to always package our Hemp Hottie and Hemp Honey BBQ sauces in recyclable glass bottles that are made in America which, also, helps to reduce the carbon emissions of transporting the heavier material. We, also, use hemp fiber as a substitute for packaging peanuts and we're always looking for the best, most environmental, options in every aspect of our operation. If you have a sustainable packaging idea for us -- especially if its' hemp-based -- feel free to contact us.
To help our readers navigate more sustainable options, below are five plant-based solutions that can stymie single use plastics in the food and beverage industry. Considering 40% of the annual 448 million tons of plastic produced every year is thrown away, mere minutes after its' intended use, and, in addition, that half the plastics ever manufactured have been made in the past 15 years, we hope our readers not only appreciate the gravity of this issues, but, also, become a part of the solution.
The Hemp Straw
When more than a half billion plastic straws are used every day there's no surprise straws are in the top ten list of liter found on beaches worldwide. Shouldn't that astounding static be the last straw? That's exactly what the company wwww.TheHempStraw.com has said and they're all about taking action.
The hemp straw itself biodegrades in 80 days and is made from three simple ingredients: PLA combined with hemp, sugarcane, and cornstarch. Compared to non-renewable petroleum straws, that last for 200 years or more, The Hemp Straw is certainly an innovation that both consumers and sea creatures can be thankful for.
Avocado Pit Cutlery
Mexico, a country that produces almost 50% of the world's avocados, is the ideal place for an Avocado plastic company, BioFase, to get its' start. In a close-loop manufacturing process, BioFase leverages the avocado's industry's supply of wasted Avocado pits turning them into bioplastics.
These sustainable plastic pellets will be used in the injection molding of sustainable cutlery like forks and knives. And the market has responded favorably to their new innovation. Since launching six years ago, Biofase has grown exponentially. Each month, the company produces 130 tonnes of bioplastics.
Lastly, BioFase claims that 'the carbon footprint is much less than other plastics and bioplastics, including paper. This is largely due to a phenomenon called bonus of biogenic carbon, which explains that the Avocado tree, when growing, absorbs CO2 of the atmosphere to form its tissues. This phenomenon does not occur in the production of any plastic derived of the oil.'
Narayana Peesapathy created a tasty and nutritious alternative: edible cutlery. Made with sorghum flour blended with rice and wheat. The spoons contains no chemicals, preservatives, fat, emulsifiers, artificial colors, or milk products. They're 100 percent natural, biodegradable, and come in a variety of sweet and savory flavors.
Narayana got the idea when he saw passengers on a plane eating with a wafer-like khakhra (a thin, flat, delicious, crunchy snack made from wheat flour in Gujarati cuisine) as spoons to scoop up rice and curry. He sells 5-6k spoons annually and is working towards developing a facility that can manufacture 50k spoons in eight hours, all while sourcing the ingredients from local farmers.
Seaweed Condiment Sachets
Although the hemp straw is a natural favorite of ours, what www.NOTPLA.com is embarking on, with their seedweed-based plastic film, Oohos, is just as exciting. Imagine how many condiment sachets are thrown away everyday. Wouldn't it be great if all those sachets disappeared within 4-6 weeks?
Oohos sachets are little sustainable vessels. Growing up to 1m per day, seaweed doesn’t compete with food crops, doesn’t need fresh water or fertiliser and actively contributes to de-acidifying our oceans. NOTPLA's business models is just as straight forward. By 2021 they will lease food companies specialized sachet-filling machines and will sell the seaweed filmit needs to operate.
Other projects coming down the pike for NOTPLA are, also, exiciting, such as seawed-based netting for oranges, garlic and more. Keep up the great work!
Mycelium Packaging (with Hemp substrate!)
Although mushrooms aren’t technically 'plants,' being that they are fungi, the substrate for Mycocomposites is hemp hurd based, a by-product of the hemp stalk. When the world produces more than 14 million tons of styrofoam, it's nice to know there's a simple, organic, biodegradeable solution.
The concept that Ecovocative Designs has masterminded s absolute genius: utilizing mycelium, a hemp substrate, and molds to replace styrofoam in packaging. Although the ‘mushroom molds’ aren’t food grade, meaning they can’t come in direct contact with food, there’s still a massive opportunity for these functional fungi to become a fixture within the food and beverage industry. And here’s why..
The 'Direct to Consumer' wine industry is booming and is on track to reach and exceed three billion dollars in sales. Most Americans would say, 'Hey, that's great thing for American agriculture!" The only issue is, when shipping all those glass bottles, you need a lot of styrofoam to encase each one of them! So if you're a wine snob who has to get that 'exact bottle and brand,' do the world a favor and let your favorite winery know that you'd like your wine even better if it came shipped in a 'magic mushroom mold.'