Try as we might, we can’t seem to shake off the need to cover the food we’re about to purchase in some sort of protective skin. Almost everything has a plastic casing — tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, breads, pastries. Even produce that comes with its own nature-derived protective shell ends up encased in plastic, such as avocados and oranges.
Yet, it’s not just for marketing or ease of purchase that items end up surrounded by a artificial, toxic material that mostly ends up burned, buried in the ground or dumped out at sea. Food left exposed to the air or the cold of a fridge — a reality of the modern food industry, as produce is transported from location to location — loses its moisture and goes off too quickly.
Israel-based Daphna Nissenbaum realised that the avocados and oranges of this world had already got it figured out. What if industrial scale packaging could function in a similar way to orange peels, protecting the insides when necessary then breaking down into nutrients once used?
So, in 2010, together with companion Tal Neuman, she set up TIPA and became its founding CEO. Over time, the company has developed bio-alternatives to a range of consumer items, including cereal bar packaging and magazine wrappers. Driven by a circular economy approach to waste, as championed by Dame Ellen McArthur, the company has focused on composting over recycling, with packaging breaking down in six months and later helping to fertilise soil.
The company says its packaging is every bit as transparent, durable and impermeable as conventional plastic packaging, and is suitable for foodstuffs and other uses.
A requirement for products to fit into the current logistic and manufacturing practices is important for TIPA, which writes on its website that “dreams need to work in real-life.”
TIPA’s work comes at an optimum time, as huge multinationals such as Nestlé and Unilever pledge to use 100% renewable plastic packaging by 2025, and major players in the world of packaging and distribution come together to form the UK Plastics Pact.
Similarly, other countries are already moving forwards, with France, India and Italy making it mandatory for the industry to use only compostable packaging in certain conditions.
“Therefore, compostable packaging not just a chic trend but a true ecological solution to some of the direst problems of our plastic consumer society,” Nisssenbaum told Food Ingredients First, adding that the company is looking to expand across Europe and into Asia and into e-commerce.
“As long as we live in a consumer society, packaging will be absolutely essential. We will need though to develop packaging materials/formats and concepts in order to assure packaging have no negative effect on the environment,” Nissenbaum concluded.