Nicole Plock and the Arekapak team present sustainable packaging from palm leaves and want to replace, for example, the classic plastic packaging for blueberries or raspberries. plastic-free replace. When I heard about her idea, I had to make an interview appointment with her right away. Because these plastic packages have been bothering me for a long time and her concept has the potential to solve this problem. But now let's not waste time and start directly with 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 a palm leaf that is an agricultural by-product in India and can be shaped without additives, using heat and pressure alone. Therefore, the packaging is completely natural and 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 in every corner of the most beautiful nature Plastic waste in the environment. At the same time, we were 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, with a modern design this can offer a good, functional alternative. So we looked more intensively at different materials and finally developed the concept for Arekapak as part of our bachelor thesis.
We got to know Babu during our time in India at college. He has supported our idea since 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 the master's program. Therefore he knows the facets of the culture within the country and the differences between city and country life very well.
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 live in a time in which we have to rethink in order not to sink completely in our own plastic waste. That's why more and more consumers are becoming vocal in their support for sustainability. Consumer desires naturally influence the packaging industry as well. Many players in the retail and packaging industries state that sustainability is increasingly important for survival in the market and are looking for new solutions. In addition, new legal regulations are pushing retailers to rethink. The most recent of these is, of course, the EU Commission's planned ban on various plastic articles.
We are currently experiencing the interest from trade and industry ourselves. We regularly receive inquiries from the most diverse areas of application. Of course, this gives us a lot of tailwind and we very much hope that we can contribute a part to plastic avoidance.
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 for its fruit in India for thousands of years and the palm leaf is produced in huge quantities as an agricultural by-product. No trees have to be cleared because the large leaves fall from the tree like leaves. So far, however, only a small part of it is 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.
The production will be done in India by local manufactures. Production with local small farmers is particularly close to our hearts, as the added value remains in the country, supports livelihoods in rural regions there and strengthens the independence of women. A social and sustainable value chain is very important to us overall.
What classic packaging can you replace with it?
The material of the packaging has great properties that fit well in the food sector. The material is very stable and thus offers optimal pressure protection for transport. The most important property is, of course, that the packaging can be completely returned to the natural cycle at the end of its life span. But aesthetics is also a big selling point. Our natural packaging all has unique grains and looks simply chic 😉.
We envisage our market entry in the area of product packaging for foodstuffs such as fruit and vegetables, small-particle fruits and dry products. Thanks to a water-repellent surface, the material can also hold water for several hours, and it is resistant to heat and cold. Therefore, (frozen) products are also conceivable, which can then be prepared directly in the oven or microwave. Later, our packaging can also be used in the take-away, as well as in the non-food sector.
At the moment, we are in exchange 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.
The use of the material also has limits, of course. 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 work out. This is then of course insanely 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 be funded by the Berlin Startup Stipendium at the moment. The program ensures our livelihood, provides us with an office and includes coaching and consulting. So we can take care of 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 bigger the reach, the more people will become aware of us and can package their products sustainably. We are still interested in exchanging ideas with manufacturers, retailers or startups to test our packaging in other areas. We are just as open to joint project ideas in the future. After all, the topic is so infinitely wide and together we can achieve much more.
Great, you have our support for sure!
A very informative talk about a still young project that I think has huge potential to drastically reduce plastic waste in supermarkets. Since the palm leaves are an agricultural by-product and they 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 get more info about the project at Arekapak.com.
PS.: In the Environmental protection blog you will find more interviews with unique people who want to make a difference in the world. At Plastic free blog you can also get valuable tips for your Life without plastic fetch