Seaweed packaging startup to replace plastics for national retailers like J. Crew and Burton

A flat-lay of items packaged in sustainable seaweed-based materials

California-based startup Sway is taking a huge step forward in its fight for long-term sustainability. The company — which uses polymers in seaweed to make compostable plastic alternatives — just launched the world’s first scalable replacement to single-use packaging. 

Today, retail bags and polybags (the plastic commonly used for shipping goods) make up 30% of all single-use plastics, which end up sitting in landfills for years.

Fortunately, Sway packaging is designed to biodegrade in less than 180 days and can be composted in any home compost or green bin. 

After four years on the market, Sway is poised to implement their patented seaweed products into the global manufacturing systems already in place and fast track rapid production. 

Sway CEO Julia Marsh
Sway CEO Julia Marsh. Photo by SnackTime

“Clean oceans, abundant biodiversity, and thriving coastal economies are all intertwined with Sway’s success as we accelerate production in 2024,” said Julia Marsh, co-founder and CEO of Sway, said in a press release. “We believe everyday materials should help to replenish the planet from sea to soil.” 

Just two months into 2024, Sway is already testing new materials with large retailers like J. Crew and Burton. 

“Projects like this take time, and we’re thrilled to see Sway’s steady progression toward market-scale production that will empower brands like ours to transition into next-generation materials,” said Doug Forster, the Chief Sourcing Officer for J. Crew, in a statement. 

Seaweed alternatives are not as rare as they once were. According to the USDA, seaweed farming is the fastest-growing sector of American aquaculture. 

It’s also one of the greenest alternatives to plastic. Paper packaging takes up more space in landfills. Cardboard waste produces methane. Even corn-based plastics need specialized composting facilities to break down. 

A Sway scientist works in a lab
Sway's Materials Engineer Amanda Guan. Photo by SnackTime

At the same time, emerging Extended Producer Responsibility laws are putting pressure on companies to take accountability for the waste their products create. 

Mitch Rovito, the packaging engineer for snowboard company Burton, said the mission to reduce plastic waste has long been part of corporate conversations, but has been harder to implement in everyday practice. 

“It has been historically tough to identify an alternative that performs through delivery to [the] end-user, meshes seamlessly with our global supply chain, and is easy to responsibly dispose of,” Rovito said in a statement. 

Seaweed products sit together atop a table
Photo by SnackTime

“Sway is committed to meeting these needs through their new product line,” Rovito added. “What a hopeful thought to envision the outdoor industry living their values with the adoption of circular, bio-based packaging!”

As more and more companies make environmental impact pledges towards a 0% plastic future, Sway could potentially become one of the first alternative packaging companies to rival the plastics industry.

Header image courtesy of SnackTime

Article Details

February 13, 2024 8:05 AM
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