Technology Circular economy

This packaging will self-destruct

 By Paola Arpino
Circular economy

“Let’s save the seas” is the SOS coming loud and clear from Peter Thomson, ambassador of Fiji, the heavenly islands located in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, who in 2017 became special envoy appointed by the UN, to protect the ocean from the invasion of waste…

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“It’s important that each of us change attitude towards plastic. The slogan for everyone should be to reject, reuse, reduce”, is the appeal with which Thomson urges us to react against the unconditional daily use of plastic. Are we ready to listen to it? Where there is a will there is a way, as an old quote would have it.
It is for this that two young Finnish biochemists, Suvi Haimi and Laura Kyllönen, have set aside their promising academic careers to devote themselves to an ambitious project: to use their skills for the planet’s well-being, inspired by their place of origin, rich in forests.

It is from a mixture of wood waste and other natural additives that Sulapac was born, an innovative packaging material one that is plastic free, 100% biodegradable, able to “disappear” in three weeks if composted, dissolve in less than a year in a marine environment, and unusable in three years if left on a shelf at home.
As the two women who became CEOs & Co-Founders of the start-up Sulapac explain, the idea dawned on their mind by looking at the several boxes of creams and cosmetics in their bathroom that have contributed significantly to environmental pollution because of the microplastics contained in cosmetics and for their anti-recycle packaging.

Chanel skin changer

Sulapac’s strategy is to change the approach of big brands to packaging with products that combine luxury, sustainability, and design and which is currently focused on cosmetics and luxury products.
Chanel is the first major brand to choose Sulapac to become more sustainable without sacrificing the elegance of its packaging design.

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"Green" is the new way to conceive luxury: Chanel invests in Sulapac (globalcosmeticsnews)

“We have set a very high-quality standard to our sustainable material”, reads their website, “with an ambition to replace plastic, and we are very pleased to welcome Chanel, a leading brand representing the most demanding luxury segment, among our investors. Chanel is definitely one of the forerunners in the luxury segment as they want to invest in the latest sustainable material and technology innovations. Our mission to save this world from plastic waste just became a big step closer!”.
Among the main advantages of Sulapac, the possibility to use its material in the same machines that are used for the extrusion of conventional plastics, avoiding further capital investments for companies.

Green Alley Award 2017

Sulapac is an example of the circular economy. From the product’s inception, it is designed to have a short life and make it easy to dispose of sustainably. It was these properties that prompted Sulapac to put itself forward for the Green Alley Award 2017, a prominent European competition for start-ups that embrace the fundamental principles of the circular economy. Sulapac went all the way to the final stages and won the first prize and picked up other several awards along the way.

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Finnish sustainable packaging startup wins the circular economy award. In the photo the founders Laura Kyllönen on the left and Suvi Haimi on the right (Green Alley)

An ecological partnership

But Sulapac doesn’t stop at luxury packaging and cosmetics. Their expansion plan involves working with companies that share the same sustainable values and who looks to be pioneers in this new market.
The replacement of the conventional straws with “alternative” ones is another idea which has allows Sulapac to pursue its fight against pollution from plastics. It stems from here the partnership with Stora Enso for the production of renewable straws, made from the same composting used by Sulapac for packaging.
“This is an important step for Stora Enso and demonstrates our long-term commitment to the gradual replacement of fossil materials with renewable solutions. Our collaboration with Sulapac is a great example of what we can achieve through the innovation partnership to create sustainable solutions in the bioeconomy,” says Annica Bresky, EVP, Consumer Board Division.

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The Finns Stora Enso and Sulapac offer alternative straws to plastic ones. The green straws should be already launched in the second quarter of 2019 (lattenews.it)

A look at other solutions

Several European startups are exploring other types of sustainable material in this market segment.
In London, for example, Skipping Rock Labs, set up four years ago, has created an edible plastic packaging based on seaweed. The company, founded by Pierre-Yves Paslier and Rodrigo Garica Gonzalez, started with edible water “capsules” and last summer launched a line of ketchup sachets that it is experimenting with 10 London takeaway restaurants and JustEat, the food delivery service, ahead of its commercial launch.
Deliveroo, one of the most famous food delivery companies, recently announced some major news: it will soon embrace eco packaging to replace plastic. The UK company has announced its upcoming collaboration with more than 35,000 restaurants in the 12 countries where it is present, offering them eco-friendly packaging for food to be delivered at home. In addition, the “no cutlery” option will also be available during the delivery phase, thus avoiding the supply of plastic cutlery, with great benefit to the environment.

The Finnish call

“Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you know about the mountains of plastic waste clogging up the world’s landfills and finding its way into the rivers and oceans. The environmental damage caused by this waste has reached a critical juncture”…Is what we read in Tim Bird’s article published by Finland fi.
In October 2018, the European Parliament approved a ban on a list of single-use plastic products, with another host of plastic products slated for reduction without a complete ban.
The future has great potential for companies that want to compete in the circular economy big circuit which can provide convincing alternatives to plastic in large enough quantities and at an affordable price. The next appointment could be the Green Alley Award 2019, registration is open until March 25, 2019.

READ MORE: Road to bioplastic by Michelle Leslie

about the author
Paola Arpino
Traveling with myself, through Rome, London and Milan, dreaming that one day I could be writing....