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7 cool sustainable packages to try: Edible cups, bamboo lip balm tubes and more

There are a host of innovations in compostable packaging. Here are some of my favorites, and why.

Forest of seaweed

Forest of seaweed. Image via Shutterstock/Divedog

I recently asked my network of LinkedIn connections to tell me about the coolest sustainable packaging innovations they’ve come across. I got a bigger response than I expected.

Before I jump into what I learned about — everything from edible cups to seaweed take-out boxes — let me step back a minute. I don’t believe all packaging should be made out of compostable materials. That simply doesn’t fit every application — and often reuse, refill and recycling can be better solutions. In addition, compostable materials are not necessarily practical. Not everyone has easy access to composting in their homes and businesses.

That said, a host of cool innovations are in this space, many of which my crowdsourcing uncovered.

Here are seven of my favorites and why:

To-go cups

I’d be very surprised if you’re reading this newsletter and haven’t heard folks talking about the need for innovation in to-go cups. It seems everyone is trying to innovate around the takeaway cup and The Good Cup may have unlocked some new potential with its innovative, lid-free design. These cups are advertised as home compostable and recyclable and can even be made with envoPAP paper made from discarded agricultural fibers. The website touts plastics savings, storage space reduction and cost savings on top of the end-of-life benefits.

Seaweed, seaweed, SEAWEED!

Tons of companies are popping up in the seaweed packaging space. Besides being compostable, seaweed also benefits from very fast growth rates (10-15 feet per week) meaning it can be harvested in high quantities and can also sequester a lot of CO2 from the ocean. Examples of companies making seaweed packaging include NotPLA, SWAY, B’Zeos and others.    

A styrofoam replacement

Cruz Foam uses upcycled chitin, a biproduct of shelling shrimp for the seafood market, and was originally conceived as a surfboard material. Listed as both curbside recyclable and compostable, this material could be a replacement for EPS and EPE foams in protective and cold chain packaging applications.

Bamboo lipstick tubes

Beauty and personal care packaging can be an end-of-life quagmire because the small formats complicate recycling. To offer one solution for this issue, Clean Filter Packaging has created jars, lip balm tubes, twist-up stick packages and other formats from bamboo that are industrially compostable. Some intriguing reuse solutions also pop up here. 

Bags and straws

When it comes to eliminating plastic waste, flexibles such as wraps and bags can be a big challenge. Kansas City-based Biolo offers solutions for both bags and straws that are made from polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) and certified compostable byTÜV for both home and industrial composting. 

The OCG (Original Compostable Gangster)

Any list talking about compostable packaging has to mention Ecovative. Made from hemp hurd and mycelium, Ecovative packaging materials can be a replacement for expanded foams, paper board and plastic packaging. The material is home compostable and grows directly in a mold for the shape needed in the final application. I have always considered Ecovative one of the OGs of the compostable packaging world. 

Edible cup, anyone?

Amai Edible Cups are touted as nutritious, versatile and environmentally friendly. The cup made from upcycled grains has only 56 calories for those watching their weight and is advertised as moisture resistant for 45 minutes and able to resist leaking for 12 hours. 

I’d love to hear about any other cool new packaging you know about! Just write to me at [email protected].

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