The growing trend of convenience in coffee has led to a spike in popularity of single-serve options, especially in the realm of instant coffee. Today’s modern take on instant coffee features go-anywhere single-serve packets, allowing folks to make specialty coffee wherever they have access to hot water. But with the single serving design comes a new problem: they produce a lot of plastic waste.
That’s where Notpla comes in. The London-based company has created an environmentally friendly, dissolvable packaging for instant coffee made out of seaweed, and it may upend our reliance on conventional plastics.
As reported by Fast Company, Notpla—short for “Not plastic”—is coming hot off a Series A round of funding led by Horizon Ventures that saw the company raise $13 million. Their new packaging is made of processed seaweed, meaning it imparts no flavor, but does add nutritional value via fiber and antioxidants. Their goal is to replace thing plastic films found in food packaging, which can be difficult to recycle, with something more sustainable.
Per Fast Company, current single serve options, including may tea bags, are made of plastic, and “a single bag can release as much as 11 billion microsize pieces of plastic and 3 billion nanosize particles into hot water.” With Notpla, that number comes down to zero. And according to co-CEO Pierre-Yves Paslier, seaweed-based alternatives are showing promise to not only to replace plastic, but improve upon it.
“One of the things that is quite exciting about seaweed is that it can do things that plastic cannot do. You create new behaviors that we wouldn’t be able to do with polyethylene or polypropylene.”
Beyond coffee, Notpla is looking into other uses for their seaweed-based material, including ramen packets, detergent pods, and clothing packaging with detergent added in so that the entire bag can be thrown into the laundry. The company already has in production an edible/biodegradable “blob-like water bottle.”
The seaweed-based packaging alternative is still in the prototyping phase, but its application has potential to be game changing. And a little umami in coffee never hurt nobody.