The same goes for the things that we order through the internet: e-commerce polybags, mailers, etc., will be sent to landfill, incinerated, or littered in the natural environment. But what would happen if instead of tossing that plastic into the waste-bin, it could be discarded with our organic waste where it would compost naturally?
This isn’t a far-fetched vision thanks to TIPA®, an Israeli-based company that has pioneered compostable flexible packaging solutions. Daphna Nissenbaum, Co-Founder and CEO of TIPA® sat down with us to talk about her innovative company.
Biodegradable like an apple
“One day I was having an argument with one of my kids. He used to take small plastic water bottles to school and I asked where the water bottle was that he had taken to school yesterday? He said, ‘I threw it away’ and I said ‘why? Why did you throw it away?’ ...I later went out jogging and I wondered if other parents around the world are also having similar arguments with their kids? We know the problem of plastic. The main problem is that plastic lasts forever. So, I thought we would need a package that is not based on plastic. And continuing that thought, I went deeper and asked, ‘okay, so what is the most natural way to do packaging?’ The first thing that came to mind was an apple. Because when I eat an apple the ‘wrapping’ is completely biodegradable.”
Long R&D journey
“That original idea was around ten years ago. At the beginning, we started working on packaging designed to package liquid to replace plastic bottles with compostable pouches. After six months of working with biomaterials experts to find the right materials for such packaging solutions, they came back with the conclusions that there are no such materials in the market, and their recommendation was to come back in few years’ time. Maybe the market will have a solution then. That was the point when we decided to start working on developing the material ourselves.”
“During the R&D phase I learned two important things. The first was, the main problem of this market is not the plastic water bottles, because if something can be recycled it’s probably those water bottles. The main problem is the flexible packaging market, where the majority of the plastic packages cannot be recycled (less than 5% worldwide). There are a few reasons for that, but the main one is that the complexity of flexible plastic packaging makes it impossible for recycling. The second was, that it is not so easy to develop such a solution.”
In the first four years, TIPA® invested all efforts in developing the technology and protecting it with strong IP (7 patents families). From day one, the company focused on manufacturing all the products throughout a conventional plastic machinery and supply chain. As Daphna emphasises: “If you want to be a mass market player, you have to be as smooth and easy to implement as possible. In this way, just replace one material with the other and not the entire infrastructure in the supply chain.”
To add to the complexity, there are rules for compostability: “A company can’t claim compostability unless it goes through very strict tests. One of the tests is the length of time it takes to compost, for instance. We run checks and tests with outside laboratories that provide those compost certificates. TIPA® has gained unique assets and knowledge and has become a leader in compostable packaging. Our goal is to enable a massive change in the market by providing sustainable, scalable solutions that meet the needs of the brand, consumer, and environment.
Collaborate with plastic manufacturers
TIPA® is a totally different and unique company in the packaging market. Daphna used her software engineering and economics background to develop a strong growth model: “I wanted to develop a network of partners that could manufacture our products, and spread the solutions, and the growth will happen by itself, similar to software.”
The first step was to work on conventional plastic machines and use an existing supply chain. This model enables TIPA® to scale fast, manufacture close to their markets (cut shipment etc.), no need to buy and install new machines, and most important - collaborate with plastic manufacturers. In the long-term, these companies will manufacture less conventional plastic and more compostable packaging.
“Establishing such collaborations was a huge challenge in the beginning. Today TIPA® operates in Germany, Italy and other territories, mainly in Europe.”
Growth and momentum
With the most recent capital raise and the minority equity stake from Triodos Organic Growth Fund, Daphna is optimistic about TIPA®’s growth and momentum in the market.
“Customers and consumers are looking to replace plastics with alternatives and the pressure is put on the brands. That’s how demand grows. Recently we’ve started collaborating with much bigger players in the market and you can see the results of that collaboration through our packaging on the shelves of Waitrose in the UK or used by Dutch brand De Halm. And that’s our ambition for this year to collaborate more and more with massive players in the market to spread our solutions across brands and stores.”
TIPA® will continue to scale with wholesale collaborators across the globe with the joint vision of a better tomorrow.
“And just think,” Daphna concludes, “we can take all the plastic that we use today that is on our shelves and in our homes and turn it into soil with compostable solutions. The big goal is to bring about change and to build a strong and robust company.”
In December 2020, Triodos Organic Growth Fund was renamed Triodos Food Transition Europe Fund.