Fake caviar invented in the 1930s could be the solution to plastic pollution


Pierre Paslier, CEO of London-based packaging company Notpla, claims that artificial caviar, invented in the 1930s, could provide a solution to plastic pollution. After leaving his job as a packaging engineer at L'Oréal, he discovered a cheaper food alternative invented by Unilever and made using seaweed.

Paslier and Notpla, along with co-founder and co-CEO Rodrigo García González, have taken the idea further, taking protein made from seaweed and producing it in soft drinks, fast food, laundry detergent and cosmetics, among other things. Made packaging for. They are also expanding into cutlery and paper.

“Seaweed grows rapidly and does not require fresh water, land, or fertilizer,” explains Paslier. “It captures carbon and makes the surrounding water less acidic. “Some species of seaweed can grow up to a meter a day.” He says that the best part is that the packaging made from seaweed is completely biodegradable as it is completely based on nature.

Paslier noted an amazing coincidence – Alexander Parkes invented the first plastic in Hackney Wick, the same part of East London that, 100 years later, Notpla calls home. Since Parkes' first invention, waste plastic – especially tiny particles known as microplastics, which take hundreds or thousands of years to break down into harmless molecules – has been wreaking havoc in ecosystems around the world.

Plastic pollution is proving particularly harmful in the marine environment, where tiny beads of plastic are lethal to the vital microorganisms that make up plankton and which sequester 30 percent of our carbon emissions,” without creating any fancy new technology. ,” says Paslier.

Notpla's plan to replace plastic started with a drink container for a marathon. In fact, it is a very large piece of fake caviar – a small pouch containing juice or water that athletes can put in their mouth and swallow when they need to rehydrate. “We wanted to create something that felt like fruit; The packaging you can feel comes from picking something from a tree more than from a production line,'' he says.

Pasalier showed photos of two postrace roads – one where refueling supplies came in plastic containers and one where it came in edible nonpla. The first was littered with plastic bottles; Second, completely waste-free.

The next step was to take out the food containers. Even containers we think of as cardboard contain plastic, he says, because grease from food will make even plain cardboard soggy. Working with delivery company Just Eat, Notpla has pioneered the replacement of per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS), the so-called “forever chemical” plastics that currently line cardboard takeout containers. It has also found a way to retrofit its solution into an old PFAS plant, so there is no need to build a new factory.

The company is developing dissolvable pouches for detergent pods, ice cream scoops and even paper packing for cosmetics. And there are plenty of seaweeds to experiment with, Paslier points out. “You don't realize that it's already available on a large scale,” he says. “It's in our toothpaste, it's in our beer, it's in our low-fat products – so there's an existing basic There's a framework that we can work with without creating any additional processes.”

This article is published in the March/April 2024 issue wired uk magazine.