Have you ever considered that seaweeds might offer a solution to the worlds’ plastic pollution crisis? The use of single-use packaging materials has increased dramatically in recent decades in parallel with increasing trends in convenience and fast-food. Most of these packaging materials are made of non-biodegradable, petroleum-based polymers that have degradative impacts on the environment and contribute to the global plastic pollution crisis. Plastic pollution in the oceans destroys ecosystems and subsequently threatens our own health, food safety and coastal recreation. Finding alternative packaging materials is an important step towards building a bio-based circular economy and reaching our sustainability goals. Our oceans may provide a solution in the form of seaweed!
Seaweeds, also known as macroalgae, occur in coastal regions across the entire globe. They provide important ecosystem services, like food, feed, medicinal, biochemical and genetic resources, energy, habitat creation, coastal protection, and aesthetically pleasing marine forests. Their incredible diversity (an estimated 12,000+ species!) leads one to imagine a seemingly unlimited potential of sustainable raw material and high-value, functional products in many different industries. Efforts are already underway to unlock some of this potential, including a project investigating the use of macroalgae biomass as a sustainable raw material for packaging in the fast-food industry. The Mak-Pak Scale-Up project is focusing on scaling-up and optimizing the production of seaweeds to create sustainable, bio-degradable, and/or edible macroalgae-based packaging material for the fast-food industry that could potentially replace single-use plastic packaging.
Consumers have become aware of the plastic pollution crisis and are eager for alternatives to plastic packaging. Consequently, we have recently seen rapid changes in packaging trends in the cosmetic and food industries. So far, we have received a lot of public interest in our macroalgae-based packaging solution and this project has increased public awareness of macroalgae and contributed to a dialogue about the diversity of products and services that macroalgae can provide as we strive towards a sustainable, circular economy. By continuing to increase ocean literacy and spread awareness of the unlimited potential our global oceans provide, together we can unharness this potential to find new, innovative ways to maintain biodiversity and reach our sustainability goals, including zero hunger, good health, clean water, affordable energy, responsible consumption and production and climate action.