Climate and Nature

How businesses can fight plastic pollution with this sustainable solution

Green and brown particles on sand: The accumulation of microplastics in our oceans, soil and air threatens ecosystems and biodiversity.

The accumulation of microplastics in our oceans, soil and air threatens ecosystems and biodiversity. Image: Unsplash/Sören Funk

Naji Sleiman
General Manager, NOA
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Climate and Nature

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  • Microplastics are becoming ubiquitous in daily life, harming our bodies and the environment.
  • Renewable alternatives to plastic can protect the environment by preventing microplastic pollution and contributing to a circular economy e.g. sugarcane bagasse is biodegradable.
  • Greater societal and environmental practices can be embedded within business models to maximize benefits to people and the planet.

Concern has been building over the last few years around the presence of microplastics in our bodies and their contribution to alarming levels of pollution.

These tiny fragments of plastic, less than 5 millimetres in size, have become ubiquitous in our daily lives, coming from personal care products, synthetic clothing fibres and degraded plastic waste, for example. The microscopic particles pose significant health and environmental risks when they enter our bodies and the accumulation of microplastics in our oceans, soil and air threatens ecosystems and biodiversity.

As microplastic pollution becomes more pervasive, so has the urgency around the need for more environmentally-friendly alternatives. At NOA – where we produce cutlery and straws, a prolific source of polluting single-use plastic and microplastics – we have approached this challenge by innovating renewable alternatives.

Using renewable materials is coupled with sustainable production methods, promoting circular economy principles, aiming to protect our health, safeguard ecosystems and create a cleaner and more sustainable world for future generations. Here’s how we do it.

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Closing the loop

Sugarcane bagasse is the key ingredient in our products and its sustainable property is multi-sourced.

Firstly, sugarcane cultivation and processing create employment opportunities and stimulate local economies, providing income for farmers and contributing to the overall economic growth of the community. Also, by utilizing bagasse, a byproduct of sugarcane pressing, we give this abundant resource a second life as it would otherwise be discarded as waste or burned as biomass, thus contributing to a circular economy.

Moreover, our commitment to sustainability extends to the end of our product’s lifecycle. We promote “home” grade composting, creating valuable organic matter that enriches the soil, minimizes waste and supports ecosystem regeneration.

Our products are also biodegradable, made from 100% natural materials and designed to break down into harmless components, ensuring minimal impact on ecosystems and marine life to protect our planet’s delicate balance.

Weaving in societal and environmental impact

Reusability is another fundamental element of providing renewable products by reducing waste and conserving valuable resources. At NOA, we have optimized our formulation for biodegradability and offered compostable alternatives. Our straws, for instance, naturally disappear within a few weeks in a home composting environment. We continuously conduct research and development to source materials from European plants and ensure biodegradability and reprocessing properties in specific environments.

We can thus have exceptional, renewable alternatives that combat plastic pollution while offering functionality and economic viability.

Naji Sleiman, General Manager, NOA

There’s a lot that can be done on a societal level too. For instance, we relocated our production to support local economies: our packaging materials are locally sourced within a 50-kilometre radius, reducing our carbon footprint and contributing to the growth of regional economies. We have also integrated individuals with disabilities into our workforce and proactively incorporate the perspective of team members bringing diverse abilities, which plays a valuable role in supporting our packaging operations.

Hygiene and safety are also paramount. By overseeing localized production and implementing rigorous quality control measures, there is full traceability of our products, which we deliver free from pesticides or potentially harmful substances. The products then undergo regular testing to meet the highest standards.

While our compostable straws biodegrade within weeks, our durable cutlery, due to its thickness, takes a few months to break down. The important thing is that both options offer durability, so striving for sustainability does not necessarily mean compromising quality.

Catalysing change

Therefore, for organizations to commit to sustainable practices does not mean compromising on quality or budget for that matter.

Innovative solutions and production methods can be deployed to comply with the principles of a circular economy while ensuring health and safety are adhered to, local communities are supported, and you are also living by ethical considerations as an employer, mindful of your team’s diverse perspectives and needs.

We can thus have exceptional, renewable alternatives that combat plastic pollution while offering functionality and economic viability. It is time for others to commit to sustainability, circular economy principles and biodegradability to strive for a greener, cleaner world together.

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