Oohos are potentially the most sustainable substitute for single use plastic packets and bottles. There are some cases where they may not neccessarily be more sustainable than resuable alternatives. Calculating resource use and emissions relative to other containers can become difficult with resuable containers that require more resources initially but become more efficient with every use. Regardless of how they compare to resuable containers, Oohos are an innovative, scalable solution to a pervasive problem that the packaging industry has contributed to and now must face as it reckons with the impact that it has on people and the environment. Notpla could affirm its commitment to sustainability by offering more transparency regarding its supply chain and labor practices. None of the claims on the Notpla website appear to be suspicious, but misrepresenting sustainability is unfortunately such a common practice that full transparency is neccessary for consumers to be able to take them at face value.
Oohos are biodegradeable liquid containing packets made from seaweed and plants. The packets are supposed to biodegrade in 4-6 weeks, or in the amount of time that they take to digest since they are edible. This compares very favorably to petroleum based alternatives that can take centuries to break down. Even plant based biodegradeable plastics take months to break down and often require special facilities to do so. Brown seaweed is abundant and grows very quickly, which makes it a highly renewable resource. Despite Notpla’s sustainable choice of materials, it is unclear whether producing Oohos is a more efficient use of energy than producing resuable containers. Any disposable container is at least somewhat wasteful by nature since it requires energy and resources that reusable containers do not require after every use. Producing a stainless steel water bottle is worse for the environment than an equivalent volume of Oohos, but the stainless steel bottle will more than compensate for this difference over years of reuse. It may be more sustainable to reuse a container than to use anything disposable, even if Oohos compare favorably to other disposable containers.
Oohos are made by a local manufacturing machine that Notpla leases to customers. This enables customers to package their liquids on site. Notpla does not disclose what the machine is called. The fact that it is intended for onsite use is positive in terms of sustainability since this reduces transportation costs. This may be necessary since it is unclear whether Oohos are fully transportable in the first place. They would probably burst under a lot of weight, and would therefore have to be kept in a number of smaller boxes, which would not be very sustainable. Since no toxic materials are used to make Oohos, the production process does not have the same potential to cause pollution that would negatively impact workers and the environment as steel or plastic production. Notpla’s decision to lease machines to customers leaves some aspects of production sustainability in their hands for better or worse. How they treat people operating the machines and where they get their electricity from is up to them. This will change when Notpla begins to offer filled packets for sale on its website rather than requiring all customers to lease its machines.
Notpla is a sustainable packaging startup. In addition to making Oohos, they have recently started producing biodegradable boxes. Packaging waste is a growing issue, and Notpla is doing important work by addressing it. They appear to have a diverse team of people working on the development and delivery of their product. The startup has received funding on Crowdcube and a investment from Sky Ocean Ventures. Crowdcube is a British crowdfunding platform. Sky Ocean Ventures is a venture capital firm focused on funding projects that reduce plastic waste. Notpla has yet to recieve any third party sustainability certifications, but this is understandable considering that the startup is so new that it does not yet offer a consistent supply of its own products. It would still be preferable for the startup to provide more transarency about issues such as its labor practices, energy use, and how it plans to invest profits once it acheives profitability. The company may be in its early stages, but now is a excellent time for it to establish a good precedent in all aspects of sustainability.