Entire industries, some of the biggest corporations, activists, and an increasing number of consumers are on a mission of shifting towards a plastic-free future. It’s definitely a topic that’s motivated and inspired creators, engineers, scientists, startup founders, and even investors to take action. There’s a noticeable increment in the volume of companies offering sustainable alternatives, and VCs and angel investors are increasingly open to invest in a more sustainable future.
This trend goes beyond plastic recycling, it is about how to replace old-traditional packaging with alternatives that not only contribute to a sustainable industry but also change the consumer’s mindset, creating a culture around responsible consumption. Startups are not only focusing on the sustainability factor but also on how to develop and provide innovative and exciting packaging solutions to both consumers and businesses.
This week, we’ve scouted promising startups working on innovative – and fun – ways to shake up the packaging industry. Here are 10 European startups making old-traditional packaging a thing of the past:
Sulapac is a fully biodegradable material innovation made of sustainably sourced wood and plant-based binders. The material is biodegraded fully without leaving permanent microplastics behind; it’s recyclable via industrial composting and processed with existing plastic product manufacturing machinery. The Helsinki-based startup has raised over €17.7 million to provide mass-producible biodegradable packaging material. Sulapac innovation empowers companies with responsible mentality and environmentally conscious customers who value premium design.
Notpla is developing sustainable packaging solutions made from seaweed and plants that biodegrade in weeks, naturally. Unlike PLA, it is home compostable and doesn’t contaminate PET recycling. The London-based startup has raised over €6.3 million. Their innovative packaging solution, Ooho, is designed for liquids and biodegrades in 4-6 weeks, or it can be eaten, making it ideal for on-the-go consumption. Ooho is used for running events, races, and other sporting events, or even alcohol cocktails at festivals or private events, it even encapsulates a wide range of sauces, salad dressings, and condiments.
Vienna-based Waterdrop develops a microdrink model, which is based on fruit and plant extracts compressed in the shape of a small cube, adding flavor and vitamins to water, with no added sugar. For every pack of Waterdrop sold, 1 plastic bottle is collected from the environment, with up to 30 million plastic bottles saved to date. The team also designs sustainable steel, glass, and bamboo bottles, using 98% less plastic and CO2 than conventional bottled drinks, with the goal to help consumers increase their water consumption while reducing single-use plastic bottles.
Pulpac, founded in 2018, develops Dry Molded Fiber, manufacturing technology for low cost, high-performance fiber-based packaging and single-use products. With the technology of cellulose molding, Dry Molded Fiber is an industrial method that can convert cellulose fibers into packaging, replacing most packaging and single-use products presently made of plastics. The Swedish startup’s dry method offers unique speed, cost, and quality advantages compared to existing cellulose forming solutions.
Shellworks is on a mission to make plastic waste a thing of the past by creating truly compostable packaging solutions. Based in London, the sustainability-driven startup creates packaging made from up-cycled waste and is a non-polluting fertiliser at its end of life. Shellworks provides end-to-end material formulation to product manufacturing, for companies seeking sustainable, scalable solutions. Since its founding in 2018, the team has raised more than €1.1 million to develop this alternative to plastic that is easy to throw away without harming the environment.
Caulibox is a reusable lunchbox scheme. Founded in 2019, the UK-based startup provides digitally-enabled reusable food packaging solutions to businesses. Their motto? Takeaway without the throwaway. While recycling is an important aspect of a circular supply chain, plastic can only be recycled limited times. Caulibox solution aims to disrupt the urban food industry, by helping customers and restaurants shift to reusable packaging by making the processes of sourcing, returning, washing, and collecting simple and convenient.
Founded in 2018, Air Up is based on the concept of retronasal smell, which means tasting with your nose. How? The Munich-based startup has developed a unique drinking bottle system: while drinking only water, Air Up’s aroma pods trick your brain into thinking you’re tasting different flavours. The Air Up team has raised over €17 million to develop an Air-Up bottle made of BPA-free Tritan. When drinking, scented air is added to the filled water, without sugar, without calories, and without unhealthy additives.
Founded in 2019, IUV is an Italian startup that produces a formula made from natural biobased biopolymers, biodegradable-compostable, in order to preserve or improve the freshness, stability, durability, appearance, taste, colour, and fragrance of foods. The solutions offered through the so-called COLUMBUS’ EGG technology are divided into two solutions: edible and biodegradable coatings applied to fresh solid foods or drinks; and single-layer/poly-coupled sheets, applied for packaging and protection of dry solid, powdered foods at low humidity.
BIO-LUTIONS is a Hamburg-based startup on a mission to end the excessive use of petroleum-based plastic and cellulose-based paper in modern societies. The team has raised around €10 million to develop their innovative and sustainable products as alternatives to conventional materials. By accessing the agricultural residues that are available in the region, Bio-Lutions shortens transport routes and ensures local value creation. The local production makes them and their customers independent from the stock market prices for petroleum and cellulose, third-party suppliers, and international transport.
Born last year, German startup Traceless is addressing plastic pollution by developing a sustainable alternative to single-use plastics. Traceless’ patent-pending technology aims to transform agricultural industry residues into novel materials: traceless film, traceless plast, and traceless coat. These advanced materials’ properties are comparable to those of conventional (bio)plastics while being completely bio-circular, based on food production residues, home compostable, not harmful in any way, and competitively priced.
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