Pierre Paslier, CEO of the London-based packaging company, claims that imitation caviar, invented in the 1930s, could provide a solution to plastic pollution. Notepad.. He discovered a cheap food alternative, invented by Unilever, and used seaweed after he quit his job as a packaging engineer at L’Oréal.

Along with cofounder and co-CEO Rodrigo García González, Paslier and Notpla have expanded on the idea, taking protein made from seaweed and creating packaging for soft drinks, fast food, laundry detergent, and cosmetics, among other things. With. They are also branching out into cutlery and paper.

“Seaweed grows quickly and doesn’t need fresh water, soil or fertilizer,” explains Paslier. “It captures carbon and makes the surrounding waters less acidic. Some species of seaweed can grow up to a meter a day.” Best of all, he says, packaging made from seaweed is completely biodegradable because it’s completely nature-based.

Passlier notes a striking coincidence—Alexander Parkes invented the first plastic in Hackneywick, the same part of East London that, 100 years later, Notepla called home. Since Parks’ first invention, waste plastics—specifically the smaller particles—have been around. Microplasticswhich take hundreds or thousands of years to break down into harmless molecules—wreaking havoc in ecosystems around the world.

Plastic pollution is being proven. Particularly harmful in marine environmentsWhere tiny bits of plastic are deadly to the vital microorganisms that make up plankton and sequester 30 percent of our carbon emissions, “without building any fancy new technology,” Passlier says.

Notpala’s project to replace plastic started with a drink container for a marathon. It’s actually a giant piece of fake caviar — a small pouch containing juice or water that athletes can put in their mouths and swallow when they need rehydration. “We wanted to create something that felt like fruit. Packaging that you can feel comes from more than just picking something off the tree off the production line,” he says.

Paslier showed pictures of two streets with postraces—one for refueling in plastic cans and one for edible notes. The first one was filled with plastic bottles. The other is completely waste-free.

The next step was to take out the food containers. We think cardboard containers also contain plastic, he says, because grease from food makes plain cardboard soggy. Working with delivery company Just Eat, Notpla has launched its alternative. Fe and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS), the so-called “Chemicals Forever” Plastics that currently line cardboard takeout containers. It even found a way to retrofit its solution into an old PFAS plant, so there was no need to build new factories.

The company is developing dissolvable sachets for detergent pods, ice cream scoops, and even paper packaging for cosmetics. And there’s a lot of seaweed to experiment with, Paslier said. “You don’t realize it’s already widely available,” he says. “It’s in our toothpaste, it’s in our beer, it’s in our low-fat products — so there’s an existing infrastructure that we can work with without any additional processes.”

This article appears in the March/April 2024 issue. Wired UK Magazine