TIPA, a new World Economic Forum Tech Pioneer, has been inspired by orange peel to solve one of the most-talked-about global problems – single-use plastic packaging. The company has developed an alternative to flexible plastic packaging, made from bio-material, that it says is fully compostable.
Most flexible packaging – think the packaging around fresh produce or coffee – can’t be recycled, because it’s made from layers of material. (Rigid packaging for food is generally more recyclable.) TIPA says its packaging can be turned into compost in 6 months in an industrial composting facility. According to TIPA, it’s “just as transparent, durable and impermeable as conventional plastic packaging. It works for dry, baked and frozen goods, including fruits and vegetables, apparel and other products.”
This is vital if alternatives to plastic are going to take off. They need to protect food and maintain shelf life and hygiene in the same way as existing plastic packaging, and also fit seamlessly into existing production processes and logistics chains. TIPA, set up in 2010 by Daphna Nissenbaum and Tal Neuman to address the plastic waste challenge, currently offers alternatives for everything from cereal bar packaging to magazine wrappers.
Only a small fraction of the plastic we’ve ever produced has been recycled. According to a 2017 study, since large-scale production began in the middle part of the last century, humans have created in excess of 8 billion metric tons of plastic. In that time, more than 6 billion tons have become waste. And here’s the problem – just 9% of that is thought to have been recycled. The rest has either been burned (12%) or sits in landfill (79%). Much of it also ends up in the ocean – about 13 million tonnes every year, according to UN Environment.