Israel-headquartered TIPA, founded in 2010 by Daphna Nissenbaum and Tal Neuman to address the challenge of developing a sustainable alternative for flexible plastic packaging. The flexible packaging solution created by the company has the same end-of-life as organic matter while maintaining the qualities of conventional plastics. The solution, inspired by nature, has already replaced thousands of tons of conventional plastic. In this interview, Daphna Nissenbaum talks to Sustainable Plastics about the role of Tipa’s compostable plastic eco-friendly packaging solutions in achieving a zero-waste economy.
Tipa was one of the pioneers in the development of flexible compostable packaging solutions. How did you get started?
TIPA was born from a discussion I had with one of my kids about why he hadn’t returned his water bottle from school. I could not stop thinking about all that plastic waste and pollution. I kept thinking there had to be a solution to this problem. I asked myself what we could throw out without feeling guilty about the environment and immediately thought: organic waste. I then met my co-founder and we started developing compostable plastic as an alternative to plastic bottles, but finding material on the market that was suitable for the water bags was difficult. As flexible plastic makes up 25% of all global plastic waste, we decided to focus on flexible plastic packaging, a huge problem, especially in the food industry. This kind of packaging is in high demand on the market, and this is what we have been developing for the past 10 years.
Can you talk about some of the challenges you encountered in marketing your packaging?
Plastic is ubiquitous in our daily lives. Almost every industry in the world has been transformed by plastic innovation. Plastics have been used in food packaging for several decades; it is easy and convenient, in addition to keeping food fresh and clothes clean. It is not easy for businesses to transition from a material that they have used for so long to a more expensive one. Fortunately, many businesses have made the switch in recent years, and many more are seriously considering it due to their customers' demands or because of their increased awareness of the tremendous harm it causes.
Are you competitive in terms of price?
To find the most suitable material and properties for each customer, our products go through a long procedure of research and development. Additionally, our products must adhere to the highest standards for compostable certifications in order to be certified by globally established bodies. All of these factors increase the cost of our products compared to non-compostable packaging.
What is the difference in composition between your industrial compostable and home compostable packaging?
A home composter's conditions vary and are dependent on the weather, the composter's mixture etc. This is in contrast to the steady and consistent conditions that are maintained at industrial composting facilities. This is why home compostable packaging is made up of different formulations that will indeed decompose in the home composter, despite the varying conditions.
Tipa has grown strongly in the past 5 years. How has that affected your organisation and where do you see future growth for the company – geographically and in terms of new products?
Our organisation has indeed grown, and we have stepped up our efforts to provide our customers with the best support and service possible; more investment has been made in R&D, and the team is working tirelessly to find compostable solutions for the market’s demands. We want the whole world to know there is a viable alternative to the conventional plastics that we have used for decades. Moving forwards, we intend to focus on the European, American, and Australian markets.
The EU’s proposals for a new Plastic Packaging and Waste Regulation were recently published. Compostable packaging seems not to be an option the EU wishes to pursue. Why is that do you think? Is it just because compostables are feared to lead to more litter? And does this affect the market for your packaging at all and if so, how?
In the complicated arena of plastic waste management, there are many stakeholders, each with its own agenda. There is a need for a diverse approach, an understanding that different areas need different solutions that ultimately lead to one goal - reducing plastic.
If they had to be, could your packaging solutions also be mechanically recycled instead of composted?
Our packaging does not fit into the recycling infrastructure. It must be disposed of in industrial or home composters.
Public opinion, in the EU and the UK, however, has been shown to favour compostable solutions. Why the gap between the public and the government, and how can this be bridged?
TIPA recently commissioned a survey that found that 89% of the public support local councils being required to collect all recyclable or compostable packaging from households. In contrast, government regulations and sustainable initiatives focus on recycling and reusing plastics. It will be possible to bridge this gap once everyone realises that different materials have different solutions and not everything can fit into the same structure. Flexible packaging, for instance, is not something that can be solved by recycling, as cases in Australia and the UK have recently shown.