We think about plastic seafood packaging a lot here at Skipper Otto. It’s no secret that plastic is having an impact on the marine ecosystems our fishing families depend on. Since the company launched, we’ve been looking for an alternative to plastic packaging.
Every year 10 million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans. If current practices continue, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. These are some depressing facts, but more people are paying attention than ever before. Governments, NGOs, and businesses are taking the problem of plastic seriously. And that means more alternatives will be hitting the market.
If we could send frozen Canadian sustainable seafood from Vancouver to Toronto in paper packaging, we would! But, unfortunately, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requires all processed seafood to be packaged in plastic. We’re always on the lookout for options, and we’re getting closer to success on that front.
Bioplastics may be part of the solution.
Bioplastics, as the name suggests, are plastics made from biological material. Traditional plastics are petroleum-based and take centuries to break down. Because bioplastics are not made from petroleum products, they have a smaller carbon footprint.
Just because a plastic is made from biological material doesn’t mean that it’s also designed to biodegrade. Some bioplastics are made to replicate industrial plastics and don’t decompose. Others will only decompose properly at an industrial composting facility.
Today, bioplastics are being developed that are marine biodegradable which means that, if they do make their way into the ocean, they will break down on their own. While this is an exciting idea, ultimately, the solution to our ocean plastics crisis is to end our use of single-use plastics altogether. All plastics (biodegradable, compostable, marine biodegradable, and conventional) in their full form affect marine life in some way; it’s just a question of how long they stick around.
Having said that, we continue to be curious about research into marine biodegradable plastics. We recently heard about a company in the U.S., BioLogiQ, where folks are working on marine biodegradable bioplastics for manufacturing straws, drink lids, and plastic bags. We’re interested in hearing more from them because of what this might mean for seafood packaging.
I recently met Chelsea Fawn Briganti, CEO and founder of Loliware, and I’m excited about the work she is doing. She has pioneered a kelp-based plastic-alternative. Loliware is making straws out of 100% plant-based, compostable, and biodegradable bioplastic. Perhaps kelp-based plastic-alternatives will one day be approved by the CFIA for seafood packaging!
Another company we’ve been talking to lately is Impactful Health R&D (IHRD), a start-up that’s working on bio-plastics for seafood packaging. Their product, which is still in development, is not only sustainable and 100% compostable, it also extends the shelf life of seafood.
Extending the shelf life of seafood is a big deal. Every year, 2.3 million tonnes of seafood is wasted in North America. Most of that waste happens during processing, distribution, and sale. So, it’s happening after the fish has been packaged. The IHRD packaging promises to extend the life of seafood by up to 30%. That’s hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fish not going to waste.
It gets better: The packaging is made from seafood waste. How cool is that? IHRD is currently focused on packaging for fresh seafood only, so we’re still looking for a plastic alternative for Skipper Otto’s flash-frozen seafood. Whether that will be a bioplastic product remains to be seen. But once a viable option is available, we’ll be ready to make the switch.
In the meantime, members can recycle their Skipper Otto soft plastic packaging in most major cities. And we continue to look for ways to make Skipper Otto as “zero-waste” as possible! Stay tuned for more announcements about innovations we’re working on to keep plastic out of our oceans!
Our planet is drowning in plastic pollution. UN Environment.
Marine biodegradable plastics offer hope for oceans and waterways, Biofuels Digest. Helena Tavares Kennedy, August 18, 2018.
Towards Greener Plastics, Bioplastics News. Alex Barrett, May 26, 2019.
Sonia - June 7, 2019
Will Bioplastics Revolutionize How We Store Seafood?
Sonia - June 7, 2019