This start-up has just won £1m for its seaweed-based plastic alternative

Notpla is making a plastic alternative from seaweed and plants.
Notpla is making a plastic alternative from seaweed and plants.   -   Copyright  Sam Scales/The Earthshot Prize
By Rosie Frost

More than six billion tonnes of untreated plastic waste currently litter our streets and fill our seas. Just six per cent of all the plastic ever produced has been recycled and 12 per cent incinerated.

Global awareness of the problem is growing and many are searching for a truly sustainable alternative.

The founders of London-based start-up Notpla believe they have an answer. Pierre Paslier and Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez found their solution in the sea. Their plastic alternative is made from seaweed and plants.

It's totally natural, completely biodegradable and can be used to make a range of packaging from bubbles to hold liquid to linings for food containers.

Where did the idea for Notpla come from?

“It all started with a little experiment in our kitchen,” says Paslier.

“We wanted to make manmade fruits. We were really inspired by the way nature makes these elegant shapes and uses all these natural materials and how we could translate that into packaging.”

Eventually, they stumbled upon seaweed and found that it was a really interesting material. That’s how the idea behind Notpla was born.

The Earthshot Prize
Notpla founders Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez and Pierre Paslier.The Earthshot Prize

Since 2014 they have made 36,000 capsules filled with sports drinks to hand to runners at the 2019 London Marathon. They’ve also created more than a million takeaway food boxes for Just Eat and have the potential to replace over 100 million plastic coated containers in Europe in the future.

Seaweed also captures carbon twenty times faster than trees and their farms boost fish populations, creating new opportunities for local communities.

Notpla has just won the Earthshot prize

Notpla’s founders have just won the Earthshot Prize in the ‘Build a Waste-Free World’ category.

Set up by Prince William, the competition awards five winners for their contributions to environmentalism, each receiving £1 million (€1.2 million) to continue their efforts.

Earthshot Prize
Notpla winning the Earthshot prize.Earthshot Prize

It was inspired by US President John F Kennedy’s Moonshot which brought together millions of people with the goal of reaching the moon. In a similar way, the Earthshot Prize encourages innovative solutions to the climate crisis.

Notpla says the money will go towards research and development as well as expanding their commercialisation.

Watch the video above to find out more about Notpla’s plastic alternative.

Video editor • Joanna Adhem