The Plastic-Free-Pedia

We need to start using materials that NATURE CAN HANDLE. Here is a list of materials we can use instead of plastic.
APP recognizes the astounding properties of plastic. But wrapping, microwaving and boiling our food in plastic must stop. We need to start using materials that Nature can handle. Here is a list of materials we can use instead – now and in the near future. For more detail on the materials, manufacturers, industrial composting and FAQs, go to our ever-evolving Resource Library.
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Materials nature can handle…
A. Aluminum
By mass, aluminium makes up about 8% of the Earth's crust. It is the third most abundant element after oxygen and silicon.

Aluminum cans deliver 100% protection against oxygen, light, moisture and other contaminants. Aluminium does not rust and has one of the longest shelf lives of any type of packaging.
  • The most sustainable and recycled beverage container - over 90% of aluminium cans are recycled, over and over again in a true ‘closed loop.’
  • Lightweight - easy to ship with lower CO2 emissions.
BUT
  • Interior lacquer - the inside of cans are currently lacquered with a lining containing a tiny percentage of styrene and formaldehyde. We are working with manufacturers to explore alternatives, as on balance, aluminium cans are an excellent alternative to PET plastic.
Click here for our aluminium PDF
B. Bio materials
Bio materials is an umbrella term covering all plant-based materials. Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer on the planet, providing strength to the structural cell walls of green plants and some forms of algae. The cellulose content of wood is 40-50%, dried hemp 57% and cotton fibre 90%. It can be used to form biofilms, paper and card packaging.

TREES
Ethically sourced paper and all its wood-derived variants, is highly sustainable and versatile. Some new materials that look and feel like conventional plastic, are now made of wood pulp. There is a huge level of innovation around wood based packaging especially in paper folded cartons, moulded pulp, fibre and nets using beech wood.
  • Renewable
  • Versatile
  • Moldable
  • Low cost
  • Highly recycled
  • Easily compostable when in film form
BUT
  • Tree-based pulp packaging needs industrial composting when it is produced at scale.
Click here for our Trees PDF

PLANTS
There is a wonderful simplicity about wrapping our food with food. Definitely something nature can handle when we are finished with it.

Using bamboo, sugar cane and cornstarch to make food trays and punnets is commonplace, but there are many other innovative uses of plants and food waste now, that can even heat-seal to give us wholly compostable trays with film tops.

A perfect example of ‘food to package food’ are tomato punnets, using the dried leaves and stalks of the tomato plant with recycled cardboard pulp.

GRASS PAPER
Sun-dried grass is extremely environmental, dramatically reducing the demands on water and energy
  • Renewable
  • Highly versatile
  • Composts down to generate biomass (soil)
BUT
  • Current lack of industrial composting infrastructure.
Click here for our Grass Paper PDF
G. Glass
Made by melting together several minerals, silica in the form of sand, soda ash and limestone, at a temperature of 1700°C.
  • Inert and non-permeable
  • Clarity
  • Highly recycled
BUT
  • Weight - more expensive to ship with CO2 implications
  • Plus plastic – glass containers often use plastic or plastic-lined lids
  • Breakable
Click here for our Glass PDF.
S. Steel / Tin Cans
Tin-plated steel cans are highly recycled and give long shelf life. Good design can transform the humble tin can into iconic packaging – think of sardine tins. However, all modern cans have a plastic lining even though it is only needed for acidic foods. Tomato-based foods do not need this plastic lining. Imagine how much less plastic we would be using if we simply found an alternative – we are working on this with can manufacturers.
  • Widely recycled
  • Long shelf life
BUT
  • The plastic lining contains BPA and other chemicals and needs replacing with a non-toxic alternative.
Click here for our Steel and Tin PDF.
New materials in the works...
ALGAE | LIGNIN | AND MUCH MORE Materials made from algae have the potential to completely replace synthetic plastics over time. Current projects include 3D algae printing for shampoo bottles, tableware and rubbish bins.

Other developments see the creation of biopolymers from organic raw materials such as mycelium, potato starch and cocoa bean shells and the building networks of biopolymer 3D printers - check out the 3D Bakery in Holland.
  • Highly renewable
  • Versatile - easy to mold for different pack shapes
  • Hold liquids - the Holy Grail of plastic-free alternatives
  • CO2 sink - algae, for example, absorbs carbon dioxide during photosynthesis.
BUT
  • Still in R+D but highly promising – watch this space.