Wales’ first Festival of Seaweed in St Davids ran from 16 to 19 May 2024 and featured industry experts, conservationists, politicians, investors, educators, fishers and farmers.

Start-up PlantSea was in attendance to highlight its seaweed-based flexible film as a 100% biodegradable replacement for plastic laundry pod packaging.

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The company also produces paper and card packaging that incorporates waste seaweed. The product can be recycled in a standard paper mill and in 2024 became the first seaweed-based packaging to receive the OPRL Recycle label.

PlantSea chief operating officer and co-founder Dr Alex Newnes stated at the festival: “Microplastics are making their way into our food and even into breast milk. Instead, we want healthy oceans and clean, plastic-free water and food chains. Seaweed offers a biodegradable, compostable alternative.”

In the UK, wild seaweed harvesting is strictly controlled under quota, while aquaculture seaweed is grown from spores provided by native hatcheries within specified areas. Seaweed cultivation results in carbon sequestration during growth, as well as providing habitats for native marine life.

Renewable aquaculture could also support employment in UK coastal areas. But the industry needs to scale up to achieve the full economic benefit.

“Despite an ideal climate and extensive coastline, demand in the UK is low compared with other parts of the world. Many suppliers here lack high-volume customers to support growth, which is key to fostering job creation,” Newnes stated.

PlantSea sources its seaweed from Scotland from both agricultural aquaculture and wild harvest. The company now employs ten people at its laboratory in St Asaph and hubs in Liverpool and London.