Nicole Plock and the Arekapak team present sustainable packaging from palm leaves and want to replace the classic plastic packaging for blueberries or raspberries, for example. plastic-free replace. When I heard about her idea, I had to arrange an interview with her straight away. Plastic packaging has been bothering me for a long time and her concept has the potential to solve this problem. But let's not waste any time and get straight to the interview!
Hi Nicole! Who and what is behind Arekapak?
Arekapak - That's Alexandra, our team partner Babu in India and me.
We design sustainable product packaging from palm leaf, which is an agricultural by-product in India and can be shaped using heat and pressure alone, without any additives. The packaging is therefore completely natural and can be recycled after use. compostable.
Alexandra and I studied communication design together in Berlin and have known each other for seven years now. When we traveled to India for a semester abroad in 2014, we not only got to know the beauty and culture of the country, but were unfortunately also confronted with the extreme waste pollution. On our travels, we found litter in every corner of the most beautiful nature Plastic waste in the environment. At the same time, we were also able to observe how natural materials are traditionally processed and used in India. We were totally fascinated by the exciting properties and natural beauty of these materials and thought that a modern design could offer a good, functional alternative. So we took a closer look at different materials and finally developed the concept for Arekapak as part of our bachelor's thesis.
We got to know Babu during our time in India at college. He has supported our idea from the very beginning and bridges the gap between cultures for us. He himself comes from a small village in southern India and is the first person to have made it from there to a Master's degree course. He is therefore very familiar with the facets of culture within the country and the differences between urban and rural life.
What development are you responding to with the sustainable packaging?
As a result of globalization and the Climate change a new environmental awareness is emerging among the population and an acceptance of responsibility towards future generations. We are living in a time when we need to rethink our approach to avoid completely drowning in our own plastic waste. This is why more and more consumers are speaking out in favor of sustainability. The wishes of consumers naturally also influence the packaging industry. Many players in the retail and packaging industry are stating that sustainability is increasingly important for survival in the market and are looking for new solutions. In addition, new legislation is forcing retailers to rethink their approach. Of course, the EU Commission's planned ban on various plastic items is the latest example.
We are currently feeling the interest from trade and industry ourselves. We regularly receive inquiries from a wide range of applications. This naturally gives us a lot of momentum and we very much hope that we can play our part in reducing plastic.
How and where is the sustainable packaging produced?
Our packaging is made from the leaf of the areca palm. The areca palm has been cultivated in India for thousands of years for its fruit and the palm leaf is a huge agricultural by-product. No trees need to be felled, as the large leaves fall from the tree like foliage. So far, however, only a small proportion has been used. The raw material can be pressed into shape without the use of artificial additives. The leaves are collected, washed and soaked, then dried in the sun and finally pressed into shape using only heat and pressure.
Production will be carried out in India by local manufacturers. Local production with small farmers is particularly important to us, as the added value remains in the country, supports livelihoods in rural regions and strengthens the independence of women. A social and sustainable value chain is very important to us overall.
Which classic packaging can you replace with it?
The packaging material has great properties that are well suited to the food sector. The material is very stable and therefore offers optimum pressure protection for transportation. The most important feature is, of course, that the packaging can be completely returned to the natural cycle at the end of its life. But aesthetics are also a major selling point. Our natural packaging all has unique grain patterns and simply looks chic. 😉
We envisage our market entry in the area of product packaging for foodstuffs such as fruit and vegetables, small fruits and dry products. Thanks to its water-repellent surface, the material can also hold water for several hours and is resistant to heat and cooling. (Frozen) products that can then be prepared directly in the oven or microwave are therefore also conceivable. Later on, our packaging can also be used in the take-away and non-food sectors.
We are currently in contact with many potential customers to determine which products are really suitable. In this way, we can ensure that we develop packaging that is marketable and can actually replace some of the classic plastic packaging.
Of course, the use of the material also has its limits. For example, our packaging is not (yet) completely airtight. However, we want to conduct further research in the future in order to develop a variant of sealing without Plastic to develop. This is of course incredibly exciting, as we could replace even more plastic packaging.
How far are you with Arekapak and how do you finance yourselves?
We are currently still in the start-up phase, setting up production and designing a packaging line to meet the needs of as many potential customers as possible. We are working closely with pilot customers with whom we are carrying out test projects. If everything goes smoothly, we expect to be able to enter the market towards the end of the year.
We are lucky enough to currently be funded by the Berlin Startup Scholarship. The program covers our living expenses, provides us with an office and includes coaching and advice. This allows us to look after our "baby" full-time. The scholarship runs until December. Our follow-up financing must be in place by then.
How can our readers support you?
Any mental support is very welcome! 🙂 But we are also happy if you spread our idea to the world. The greater the reach, the more people become aware of us and can package their products sustainably. We are still interested in exchanging ideas with manufacturers, retailers and start-ups in order to test our packaging in other areas. We are just as open to joint project ideas in the future. The topic is so vast and we can achieve much more together.
Great, you have our support for sure!
A very informative discussion about a still young project that I believe has huge potential to drastically reduce plastic waste in supermarkets. As the palm leaves are an agricultural by-product and have no other use, the material is particularly sustainable. I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about Arekapak in the future. You can find out more about the project at Arekapak.com.
PS.: In the Environmental protection blog you can find more interviews with unique people who want to make a difference in the world. In the Plastic free blog you can also get valuable tips for your Life without plastic fetch