Inspired by nature: TIPA’s compostable packaging could put an end to the use of plastic in the food sector

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6 min read
contributor: Candice Krieger

TIPA, a ground-breaking Israeli start-up is helping to accelerate the global shift away from the use of plastics through its compostable packaging solution.

TIPA manufactures compostable packaging that mimics the functionality and optical properties of plastic, but is biodegradable and does not adversely affect shelf life. It could even outperform conventional packaging when it comes to the shelf life of certain products. Unsurprisingly, an increasing number of brands are turning to TIPA’s solutions, particularly as the war on plastic gathers momentum. Among those TIPA is working with are Riverford Organic Farmers, Duchy Organic for Waitrose and fashion brand Stella McCartney.

“Consumer demand for sustainable packaging is growing meteorically.”, says TIPA Co-Founder Daphna Nissenbaum, a former software engineer. “Plastic use and waste are a bigger concern than ever before; eight out of 11 million tonnes of plastic pollution in the ocean comes from flexible packaging and plastic is killing more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year.”

Several polls that TIPA has participated in have found that the majority of the public demands sustainable packaging alternatives and are willing to pay more for it. For instance, a recent UK poll revealed that 85% of the British public would prefer their food to be wrapped in compostable packaging rather than traditional plastic. 

TIPA’s trademarked packaging is made from proprietary blends of fully compostable bio-based and fossil-based polymers. The products break down under compost conditions, returning to nature without harmful impact.

 “The technology imitates nature’s packaging,” says Nissenbaum. “Like an orange peel, it protects what it packages before degrading safely in compost, leaving no harmful residue.”

According to recent studies, TIPA’s compostable packaging is as effective as conventional plastic and may even allow for a longer shelf-life of fresh produce, casting new doubt on the claim that conventional plastic packaging is the only possible solution for preserving freshness on the market.

Scientists at the Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), The Volcani Institute (Israel), used cucumbers and bell peppers to test the differences between TIPA’s compostable packaging and conventional plastic packaging. They found the compostable packaging enables shelf-life of bell peppers up to 21 days and cucumbers up to 15 days – more than conventional plastic.
In plastic packaging, the research found that cucumbers lasted no more than 10 days.

Our use of plastics has surged during the pandemic; think masks, gloves, takeaway boxes and bottles of sanitisers, which are eventually discarded in terrestrial or marine environments. But it has also allowed us to rethink our relationship with the environment, says Nissenbaum. “Governments are looking to turbo-charge the economy by supporting businesses and new industries that can bring new solutions to the table. People are horrified by the colossal amounts of waste they see and this cries for a drastic change. We’ve been noticing growing environmental awareness among brands, retailers, and end-consumers. Sustainable packaging is becoming a necessity rather than a ‘good to have’. The market is growing along with the spotlight on plastic pollution, now more than ever.”

Governments across the globe have committed to banning the use of plastics that threaten our natural environment. China, which used to import more than half the world’s traded plastic waste, banned imports of most of it in 2018. In England, single-use plastic plates, cutlery and polystyrene cups are just some of items that could be banned as part of a public consultation being launched this Autumn. These proposals will form part of the UK Government’s commitment to prevent all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042.

From this year, the EU plans to ban many single use plastics, and in Spain, a ban on the sale of fruit and vegetables in plastic wrapping in supermarkets is due to take effect in 2023, as part of a decree drafted by Spain’s Ministry for Ecological Transition. 

Disrupting the global plastics industry has long been on the agenda for Nissenbaum.
After studying economics and computer science at the Bar-Ilan University, she pursued a career as a software engineer before changing direction and becoming CEO of the Caesarea Center for Risk Management. “But plastic and packaging were always on my mind.”, she says.

“It all started with a discussion I had with one of my kids about why he hadn’t returned his water bottle from school. And while I was jogging, I thought to myself that in a few years we will need packaging that is not based on plastic, because plastic is destroying the environment. The solution, I thought, should be simple, something that is already around us, a system that already works. I immediately thought of an orange peel. When I finish eating an orange, I throw away the residuals to the waste bin which disintegrates and biodegrades organically. Then it hit me! Why not create a package that can return to the organic waste stream? Like an orange peel, the package will decompose and go back to nature.”

TIPA was launched in 2010. And it is eco-companies that Nissenbaum believes are the future of the working world. “Corporate responsibility is becoming an imperative part of every business. Be it social or environmental responsibility, employees, especially the younger generations, are attracted to companies and organisations that do right by the world and seek the opportunity to work for them, especially if their values match their own.”

Taking steps to green your business has many advantages; the main one being brand identity. “Companies understand they should embrace and incorporate it throughout their entire supply chain,” says Nissenbaum. “Sustainable brands and companies with a strong focus on the environment are becoming increasingly attractive to customers, employees, and investors. Having a good business reputation is more essential than ever and building a brand around sustainability shows the world you care about more than just your bottom line. Ultimately, if we carry on business as usual, we’re heading towards a climate disaster. We all have a responsibility to protect and preserve the environment, and businesses have the responsibility of creating sustainable products and services that customers can choose from. If every business made a few small changes, we’d be on a much better path in no time.”

As the next few decades will see population and income growth expected to create more demand for plastics, which help support safety, convenience and improved living standards, companies like TIPA will be more important than ever. 

For more on packaging, discover our Masterclass: Creating great packaging which will cover how you can bring your products to market through an approach which will bring your brand and its personality to life through an effective design process.

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