Ninety-one percent of plastic globally is not recycled and around 60 percent of all the plastic we’ve produced since the start of its mass production in the 1950s remains somewhere on our planet today. Much of the problem is due to single-use plastics, such as food packaging and cutlery. The Ocean Conservancy, an environmental advocacy group, ranks plastic cutlery on its “most deadly” list for marine animals when mistaken for food. Around the world, a million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, according to the Guardian (most of which go unrecycled).
The plastic waste crisis touches everyone; we all live on the same plastic waste-infested planet. From spewing vast amounts of carbon emissions during its creation, to clogging waterways, to killing marine life, to jamming landfills (where some plastics leach chemicals over time), the mass production and improper disposal of plastic products hurts our natural environment.
“Movements are going on worldwide that push the industry towards more sustainable plastics,” Alex Sundbäck, a co-founder of Potato Plastic, a Swedish project developing potato-based utensils, said. While single-use plastics still dominate, the movement that Sundbäck references could steadily grow if new technologies find practical usage — and people are willing to possibly pay higher prices.
Sundbäck’s potato-oriented project is just one of numerous new developments within the edible plastics space, many of which have inventive origin stories. Potato Plastic, for instance, began as a thesis project for Sundbäck’s fellow co-founder, Pontus Törnqvist, who discovered, upon spilling starch and water on his kitchen table, that the fluid dried into a plastic-like film. He describes this as the “lucky mistake” that led to Potato Plastic’s eventual development.
Like other edible plastic inventions, including seaweed-based Algotek and Notpla, Potato Plastic functions like single-use plastic, minus all the bad stuff. Notpla, the company behind the “Ooho” technology that made Whiskey Tide Pods possible, also uses its technology to replace plastic bottles at marathons and sporting events, and has introduced compostable condiment sachets, available on the Just Eat food delivery service.