Maine company aims to replace single use plastics with compostable, fish-friendly alternatives

Published: Dec. 21, 2020 at 4:43 PM EST
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - ”Why not design our packaging to have end of life in mind?” asks Ariadne Dimoula.

When 6000 pounds of plastic trash was lost in Penobscot Bay earlier this month and began washing up on a local beach, it was a strong reminder for Dimoula of why she shifted her focus a few years ago from marine research into material science.

“A lot of my work would be useless if we didn’t get our thumb around the plastic pollution problem.”

Dimoula and her mother, Claudia Loud, helped found Paramount Planet Product three years ago to research alternatives to single-use plastics. The company is still small, with only a few employees aside from the mother-daughter duo. Dimoula is Ocean Research Director while Loud operates as Senior Research Scientist and paper maker.

They looked at what items were found most often during cleanup efforts.

“That’s when we started to look at lids which are in the top ten.” says Dimoula,

They’ve developed a material using nanocellulose which they plan to mold into drink lids.

“The goal is for it to be paper stream recyclable.” says Dimoula, “Ocean compostable, fish friendly products.” adds Loud.

In June, they received a grant for $225,000 from the National Science Foundation to continue their work.

“We’re opening up our lab at the Darling Marine Center.” says Dimoula. “Our goal is next month. They’re actually building it.”

Loud has a background in the forest products industry and chemical engineering while her daughter has a background in marine science.

“We are really driven to make a difference, and I suppose, being together as often as we are helps.” says Loud.

“We just never turn off, always talking.” adds Dimoula.

“Holidays. All the time!” Loud responds, laughing. “We’re doing it because we really want it, and we love the planet.”

They face both technical and business hurdles but hope to have a marketable product within a year and a production plant up and running within three. In the short term, they’re working to create a standard process to determine if a product is ocean compostable and fish friendly. They use zebrafish embryos to test dissolved materials.

“Looking into the microscopes to see if our zebrafish die or if they actually open their mouth to eat our products.” says Loud.

Their ultimate dream is to find replacements for all the products on the top ten list, so when you walk into a store, you only find products using compostable materials. They also hope to tackle the problem of fishing equipment.

“About 40% of the trash found is one time use litter, and about 60% is fishing gear.” says Dimoula.

They say the general public has to be involved in making the shift to sustainability.

“When we use something for 15 minutes, where is it going after that?” asks Loud. “I think if all of us started to think like that, we would think about making other choices and asking for the plastic industry to be making something else.”

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