15. Nov 2023
A global coalition of packaging and material companies is calling on UN Treaty makers to recognise natural polymer materials as a key tool in the fight against plastic pollution.
The recently launched Natural Polymers Group is a new industry voice committed to scaling natural polymer solutions to reduce plastic pollution globally.
The group, representing seven innovators (across the US, Europe, and India), has been founded to establish nature-based materials, such as plants and seaweeds, as a viable and mainstream means of replacing fossil-based plastics.
These innovative materials, created by companies Notpla (London, UK), Loliware (San Francisco, CA, USA), Traceless (Hamburg, Germany), Xampla (Cambridge, UK), MarinaText (Brighton, UK), Zerocircle (Mumbai, India), and PlantSea (Gaerwen, UK), offer a regenerative, circular solution to tackle plastic waste and pollution.
The third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee kicked off in Nairobi, Kenya, this week, as representatives come together to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.
"Natural polymers occur in nature in large quantities. Apart from traditional uses such as cotton or paper, new, environmentally friendly processes have emerged in recent years, resulting in novel natural plastic substitutes. They use biomass from agricultural residues or algae as a basis, for example", says Anne Lamp, co-founder and CEO of traceless from Hamburg, "Technically, we are not talking about bioplastics, but about a new, completely natural generation of materials".
"We have come together to demonstrate the enormous potential for naturally sourced materials to transform industries reliant on conventional and single-use plastics," said Pierre Paslier, co-founder of Notpla. "Our group will be the voice of this emerging industry and accelerate the adoption of natural polymers across many sectors and applications".
Alexandra French, CEO of Xampla, said, “We are proud to launch the Natural Polymers Group to speak with one voice about the potential of natural materials to eliminate plastic. We urge those who are drafting the Treaty to recognise natural polymers as an essential part of a plastic free future”.
The group has set out three policy endorsements ahead of INC-3. This includes the call for a global and clear definition for plastic and non-plastic substitutes and an expanded criteria for circularity, that recognises natural polymer’s end of life benefits.
It also pushes for ambitious policies and incentives to phase out unnecessary plastics such as extended producer responsibility systems, taxes, and levies. These measures will help scale the production and use of safe, sustainable natural polymer solutions made from abundant renewable resources.
"Many individual regulations and strategies already aim to avoid plastic and support substitution with natural materials. The global plastics agreement must now anchor this key instrument at a global level through a clear definition of the term. In this way, the participants in the negotiations can help to significantly reduce the use of plastic overall, create clarity and prevent greenwashing", said Anne Lamp.
"The global treaty underway now is a pivotal chance to coordinate ambitious action to address the plastic crisis. We urge policymakers to leverage this opportunity to support natural solutions as the key solution to avoid plastic waste and pollution altogether, rather than relying solely on recycling or reuse of plastic", added Pierre Paslier.
The Natural Polymers Group represents an important step in harnessing nature's solutions to transition to a circular economy free of plastic pollution.
The coalition invites other innovators, businesses, researchers and NGOs to join its mission. AT
*Editor's note: As the topic of natural polymers is rather controversial Renewable Carbon Plastics will publish an article about it in one of the next issues.