How Li Ka-shing backed start-up Notpla plans to replace plastic with a sustainable seaweed alternative
Author: Martin Choi
Every minute, the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Over 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year, a figure which is set to double by 2040, according to the UNEP. Yet only 9 per cent of all plastic waste produced to date has been recycled, while 12 per cent has been incinerated. Notpla packaging itself means less plastic clogging our seas, reducing ocean waste. Meanwhile, farms boost fish population and seaweed farming creates new opportunities for fishing communities.” The start-up’s most popular product, called Ooho, is an edible, flavourless and biodegradable membrane made from seaweed that can be used to contain water and other liquids in a small “bubble”. It was used in the 2019 edition of the London Marathon, where around 36,000 Oohos filled with Lucozade were handed to runners. In 2021, Notpla also launched a seaweed coating for cardboard packaging, as an alternative to plastic boxes. Notpla raised £4 million in seed funding in 2019 from venture capital funds including Lupa Systems and Astanor Ventures. In December 2021, they closed their series A round of £10 million led by Horizons Ventures, the private investment arm of Hong Kong’s best known billionaire, Li Ka-shing. With the £1 million from the Earthshot Prize, the start-up plans to invest in machinery, R&D as well as expand their 65-strong team of chemists, engineers and designers. The prize will also help Notpla accelerate their scale of commercialisation.