Plastic pollution is a major environmental hazard due to the material’s widespread use and non-biodegradable nature
Due to its ubiquity and its non-biodegradable nature, plastic is one of the top pollutants found in the environment. Fortunately, many eco-friendly materials can be used as a viable and practical substitute for plastic in order to prevent this unsustainable material from further contaminating our fragile planet. Here are 12 of these sustainable alternatives to plastic.
Text by Terence Koh
Images from Shutterstock
1. DAIRY PLASTIC
Made from casein, the protein found in milk, dairy-based “plastic” hasbeen in existence for more than a century but was replaced by synthetic plastics. French company Lactips has combined the protein with clay and a reactive molecule (glyceraldehyde) to make a hardier plastic that is still biodegradable.
2. CRUSTACEAN PLASTIC BAGS
Chitosan, made from prawn and crab shells, has the potential to replace plastic in packaging for food and drinks.
3. CALCIUM CARBONATE PAPER
Billed as “paper made out of stone”, calcium carbonate paper is printable, recyclable, and water-proof. It can be used to make FDA-certified food grade packaging, paper bags, takeaway food cartons, grease paper wraps and zipper storage bags.
4. LEAFY PLASTIC
Instead of single-use plastics made from styrofoam, bioplastics can be made from a variety of sources like corn and can be broken down into polylactic acid (PLA). These types of plastics can be made into drinks bottles, food grade containers and films.
5. MYCELLUM PACKAGING
Ecovative Design uses agricultural waste with mycelium (mushroom roots] in moulds to produce packaging.
6. PALM (OPEH) LEAVES
Palm leaves from the areca palm tree can be collected and moulded into the desired shape. In Singapore. the broader stem of the palm leaves is used by fried Hokkien prawn noodle sellers, Char Kway Teow (fried rice noodles) sellers and Hor Fun (broad rice noodles) sellers as proof of their authentic “old-fashioned” taste street-cred.
7. GREEN LOOSE FILL
Made from corn starch, EcoFlo loose fill is used the same way as polystyrene loose fill in packaging.
8. SUGARCANE PACKAGING
Made from the by-product of sugarcane processing, bagasse is malleable and sticky and can be made into packaging for food delivery, similar to polystyrene. It’s biodegradable and compostable.
9. EDIBLE WATER BUBBLES
Water bubbles made of seaweed – bubbles you can eat. Made by Ooho, a UK startup, the manufacturing process uses five times less carbon dioxide and nine times less energy than PET.
10. BARLEY AND WHEAT SIX-PACK RING
SaMater Brewery in the US has produced a six-pack ring for its beer that is edible and biodegradable. It’s made from barley and wheat buttons from the beer brewing process.
11. SILBERBOARD — METALLISED PAPER
Recyclable and compostable, Silberboard is an alternative to traditional composite metalised paper and boards.
12. BIODEGRADABLE CELLOPHANE
Biodegradable and made from wood pulp, NatureFlex is a sustainable cellophane. The uncoated version can be used for chocolate and confectionary, the semi-permeable for fresh produce and diary, and the barrier version can be used for baked goods, snacks, coffee, tea and personal care items.
To find out more about the hazards of plastic pollution and measures that have been enacted to mitigate this hazard around the world, get your copy of Asian Diver Issue 1 / 2019 here.
For more insightful features and stories like this, subscribe to Asian Diver here.