Harnessing the power of seaweed to create compostable packaging and jobs for coastal communities
An estimated 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide every year, with only a small percentage collected for recycling. Plastic waste can remain in nature for centuries, clogging waterways and harming human and aquatic life. One company's innovative solution aims to reduce plastic pollution while generating income opportunities for coastal communities across Latin America.
Based in California, Sway designs seaweed-based bioplastic packaging materials as a compostable alternative to petroleum-based plastics. The startup partners with coastal communities across Latin America to cultivate seaweed, creating income opportunities for smallholder farmers. With a focus on regenerative practices, Sway uses the principles of the circular economy to design not only their products but the entire supply chain to restore social and natural systems harmed by climate change and pollution.
A US$ 200,000 investment from Conservation International Ventures will enable Sway to complete five pilot projects with major brands and retailers and hire key staff in engineering, supply and sales to prepare for commercial launch at the end of 2022. The investment is part of a US$ 2.5 million initial funding round, led by Valor Siren Ventures, Alante Capital, BAM Ventures and other industry-aligned investors.
In addition to reducing single-use plastic production and pollution, a high-volume compostable alternative packaging made from seaweed will help to create an equitable market to support small-scale seaweed farming in Latin America, providing sustainable livelihoods. Seaweed forests also provide vital ecosystem services and can sequester up to 20 times more carbon per acre than forests, playing an important role in the global effort to solve the climate crisis.