Really? Edible Seaweed Packaging? Evoware’s Brilliant and Lofty Ideal for Indonesia
“Our Mission is to create innovative solutions from seaweed to solve plastic waste issues while increasing the livelihood of Indonesia’s seaweed farmers.” — Evoware
Indonesia’s safe seaweed-based alternative to toxic, generic and non-biodegradable single-use plastics is a revelation. The Indonesian start-up company Evoware co-founded by David Christian, is ‘fighting the good plastic fight.’ By creating eco-solutions to tackle Indonesia’s ever-present plastic waste pollution problem. A step in the right direction where environmental conservation and unsustainable human behaviours are concerned. The War on Bad Plastics in the Indonesian archipelago has finally commenced.
Plastic contamination is a massive problem in Indonesia. Notwithstanding, a lack of finances, encourages those from more impoverished Indonesian communities to rely on cheaper more cost-effective single-use plastics that are increasingly harmful. Indonesia’s waste management systems are incredibly primitive, and because of this, millions of tonnes of plastic waste products end up clogging and polluting its once pristine waterways. Eventually, contaminating the world’s oceans.
According to Johnny Langenheim from The Guardian Australia, Indonesia has recently pledged US$1billion in a bid to eradicate its marine waste by 70% by 2025. To achieve this, it means drastically transforming consumer habits and behaviours vis-a- vie modernising waste management infrastructure currently in place. Moreover, financially ramping up a transition to biodegradable alternatives. What is encouraging is, there is a somewhat, nascent political will in Indonesia, to redress ‘plastic problems.’ Albeit, incrementally and unconventionally, if necessary.
Plastic pollution is the bane of our planet. Environmental experts are now predicting, following, Derek Markham from Treehugger, “by 2050 oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight.” Environmental doom and gloom aside, Indonesia may have found the right eco-friendly solution, in the form of edible seaweed. A raw, eco-friendly, sustainable, natural product and single-use ‘good plastic alternative.’ Indeed, seaweed is biodegradable. It’s also edible. Rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. It has already been proven by Evoware, to be a safe food for humankind to consume.
Cristyn Lloyd from the Southeast Asia Globe, emulates the sentiments of Evoware’s co-founder, “plastics are contaminating everything — our air, our food and even our water.” Furthermore, Indonesia like China is “by far [one] of the largest seaweed producers in the world.” Therefore, it seems logical and reasonable to put the country’s naturally abundant supply of seaweed to good use? Doesn’t it?
Lloyd further establishes Evoware’s seaweed-based single-use packaging is primarily being utilised for food and beverage products. It’s dissolvable in warm water which accounts for zero waste and is virtually odourless and tasteless. This safe plastic alternative is also being used for small food-based sachets. For example, coffee packets and food seasoning packets like the kind, you get in instant noodle cups. Likewise, for single-use packaging on takeaway items such as burgers and sandwiches.
Evoware launched its safe packaging alternative back in September 2017. At present, the company is investing in a large production facility as well as, experimenting with varied aspects of its seaweed-based product. Christian himself aptly states, “the reaction has been great. Right now, we are still very new…We are hopeful. We want to replace plastics, but we need to do [little by little], I think. That’s the long-term goal.”
Zahra Matarini Kartika from Reuters, says Christian’s inspiration (regarding, reconceptualising seaweed and its ethical properties), was borne out of an insatiable desire to fight against the proliferation of plastic waste in his hometown of Jakarta. “I saw how much plastic waste [was] produced here, which takes hundreds [and] thousands of years to degrade and contaminates everything” Christian further adds.
Langenheim implies seaweed is cheap to produce. The benefits are that it can be cultivated off-shore and it multiplies rapidly. The bonus is, it doesn’t require fresh water or chemicals as part of the cultivation process. Evoware, also works directly with Indonesia’s seaweed farmers, “we teach [farmers] how to grow high-quality seaweed and to wash it properly, plus we pay double the price they’d normally get [paid]” Christian further adds. It’s a step in the right direction. Breaking a cycle of excessively corrupt supply chains where seaweed farmers experience slim returns from dominant intermediaries.
Another step in the right direction, is Indonesia joining the United Nations (‘UN’) Clean Seas Campaign. The UN aims to tackle the global production and consumption of single-use plastics. As Langenheim, further surmises, it’s now up to Indonesia to provide the positive legal frameworks in targeting its plastic pollution problems at both regional and national levels. Notwithstanding, provide a solid foundation in the creation of new and transparent supply chains, better waste management policies and more effective community engagement initiatives. It may be lofty, but it’s necessary.
According to Lester Wan from Food Navigator-Asia.com, Evoware has ambitious plans to automate and scale up its seaweed-based products with the intention of a substantial cut in the final costs of its products. Since March 2018, the company has produced 60 sheets of seaweed packaging per day via manual labour. The acquisition of new machinery would mean Evoware could potentially create 2,000 sheets of seaweed packaging per day. Quite an extraordinary increase. Its current production facility is based in Jakarta, and it sources its seaweed from seaweed farmers in Makassar, South Sulawesi.
At the moment, Evoware manufactures Ello Jello Edible Seaweed Cones and Cups and Edible Seaweed Packaging with plans to go beyond this in the future. At the core of their business endeavours, lies a profoundly passionate twofold desire. Namely, to educate younger generations about making a difference and to improve the lives and livelihoods of Indonesia’s underprivileged seaweed farmers. Price may be a current concern, however, with the right kind of machinery to enable production en-masse and with a healthy dose of courage anything is possible.
The future looks potentially bright. Not just for Indonesia but the rest of the planet, should non-biodegradable conventional plastic packaging be somehow eradicated in its entirety. Plastic waste pollution is a global problem. Not only Indonesia’s problem. What Evoware is doing is bold and cleverly ambitious. For our degraded planet to be able to reap the benefits of Evoware’s lofty plan, the global mentality has to change. Entrenched bad plastic practices have to cease along with it. A tough row to hoe.