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Why don't we use more bioplastics?

Neil King | Natalie Muller
July 14, 2023

Substituting fossil-based plastics with compostable ones could help address plastic pollution. But not all bioplastics are eco-friendly or biodegradable. A startup from the UK says seaweed is the answer.


Interviewees featured in this episode:

Hasso von Pogrell, managing director of European Bioplastics

  • "Today we have all kinds of different bioplastics which are perfectly able to substitute conventional plastics, and they have quite a few properties which make them better than the conventional ones."

Janine Korduan, senior program officer for circular economy with Friends of the Earth Germany 

  • "Bio based plastics are also a really big problem because they are produced with a high demand of land, so it comes with all the negative impacts of industrial agriculture."

Pierre Paslier, co-founder and co-CEO of Notpla

  • "Typically our (seaweed) product breaks down in nature in 4 to 6 weeks without any human intervention, no need for industrial composting or anything like that."


A plastic material is defined as a bioplastic if it is either biobased, biodegradable, or features both properties, according to the industry association European Bioplastics.

Bioplastics are made wholly or in part from renewable biomass such as sugarcane, corn or cellulose.

They are already being used for food packaging, agricultural films, composting bags and other consumer products for instance.

But not all bioplastics are biodegradable. Some have the same chemical structure as their fossil fuel counterparts mainly because their creators want to achieve the same degree of durability.

This means that some bioplastics can fuel the very same waste problem we already have with conventional plastics.

The UK-based startup Notpla says bioplastics made of seaweed are the answer because they are fully biodegradable and don’t compete with crops on land and come without the environmental downsides of conventional agriculture.

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