We all know single-use plastics are harmful. Consumers use utensils, grocery bags, straws, and styrofoam for only a few minutes, yet plastic’s lifespan is longer than several generations of humans. Worse yet, more than 10 million tons of plastic packaging flows into the oceans every year–equivalent to a garbage truck dumping a load into the waters every minute. Before 2020, several communities instituted bans of single-use plastics, but due to sanitation concerns during the pandemic, many discontinued the restrictions. To complicate matters further, the cost to use recycled plastic is almost double that of producing new plastic, making sustainable solutions more challenging to find.
Many businesses and consumers looked to paper products since paper is both renewable and biodegradable. For example, paper coffee cups have replaced styrofoam cups in most fast-food restaurants. The paper for food products is covered with petroleum-based chemicals such as polyethylene to make the paper water-proof. The polyethylene hinders the paper’s ability to decompose, so the 58 billion paper cups that reportedly end up in landfills each year will be there for decades.
J&J Green Paper, based in Miami, Florida, introduced an innovative solution to increase paper products’ usability. Its CEO, Scott Segal, is the son of a former Revlon president and had access to ingredients the cosmetic company used in organic lipsticks. Part of his process involves taking remnants of feedstocks such as bagasse and rice hulls and processing the waste to extract usable oils. After a bit of experimentation, Segal found a mixture that adhered to paper and created an effective water barrier. The biotechnology is named JANUS and meets these characteristics:
- Backyard compostable
- Fully recyclable
- High repulpability
- Can be used during shipment and delivery to end consumer
- Can replace single- and double-sided containers for hot and cold products
- Sources raw material available worldwide
- Uses the same manufacturing technology as current methods for end-product
- Causes minimal supply chain disruption
While his initial interest was finding a solution for beverage containers, J&J’s product is usable for many applications. For example, cereal manufacturers could use it to coat the inside of the cereal box and discontinue using the interior bags. J&J is currently in discussion with one of the world’s largest straw manufacturers on a deal to produce sustainable products. Segal feels confident his product can replace the 50 million tons of polyethylene used annually in food container production.
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