Mornington Peninsula-based startup Great Wrap has secured more than $500,000 in government funding to complete the necessary financing needed to build its new manufacturing plant in Tullamarine.
Co-founders Julia and Jordy Kay will use the plant to commercialise and manufacture biopolymer resin (cling wrap) derived from organic waste to produce a compostable stretch wrap that can replace plastic cling, silage, and pallet wraps.
The project cost $6.41 million, with the additional cash raised through asset financing, including investment from entrepreneurs Simon Griffiths (co-founder and CEO of Who Gives a Crap) and Darren Thomas (owner of Thomas Foods International).
“It's the foundation for us. We're building a commercial factory that, at some point, will make the vast majority of Australia's stretch wrap, pallet wrap and cling wrap,” Jordy Kay tells Business News Australia.
“It has given us the ability to use some of the highest quality and sophisticated technology in the world, that we've imported from Europe, to essentially produce a product that is on par, if not better, than petroleum plastic.
“So, whether it stretches or sticks, or has the tensile strength required to wrap tonnes of pallets, then we will have that ability now with this new factory, which is super exciting.”
Great Wrap was founded three years ago when Julia, an architect, and Jordy, a former winemaker, set out to change the packaging landscape by utilising food waste as the primary raw material in stretch wrap.
After a year spent on research and development, the business launched a successful prototype which was manufactured overseas. The product sold out within hours, which prompted the business to switch manufacturing to a small factory in Melbourne at the beginning of 2021 to prove the concept was commercially viable.
Manufacturing the product in Australia is extremely important to the founders, who didn’t feel they had enough control over overseas production, were uncomfortable with the added carbon-footprint from shipping the product and were weary of the growing supply chain issues.
“I think 2020 and 2021 were pretty good lessons in supply chain, and how it’s probably not a great way to run your business,” Kay says.
“It really left a lot of people vulnerable, and ultimately for some, it was their downfall.
“The vast majority of pallet wrap is currently made in China, it can leave businesses quite exposed, so it really does mean a lot for us to keep this local.”
Replicating the same local waste and manufacturing concept is a priority for the business as it considers expansion into North America and Europe.
The owners are coming to terms with the sheer scale of the potential impact the product will have on the environment.
By replacing the old petroleum made plastic with a bio-based product, Great Wrap claims the new factory will remove 400,000 tonnes of Co2 from the environment every year - which is the equivalent of taking nearly 100,000 cars off the road.
“That was the reason why we wanted to start with pallet wrap - because it was the connector for all businesses,” Kay explains.
“Everything you wear, the seat you sit on, your computer, the food you eat, it's all wrapped in pallet wrap at some point in its life.
“It’s this one product that is probably the most used piece of plastic on the planet, so the scale and impact in that alone is massive.”
The new plant, which will create more than 100 jobs in advanced manufacturing, engineering, research, sales and marketing, will convert over 50,000 tonnes of local food waste into domestic and industrial products.
“We will be using local starch waste, and that’s from a whole bunch of different food industries and suppliers who collectively have a lot of waste,” Kay says.
"Sadly, if they can't give it away as cow food, they have to put it in a paddock because there's nowhere else to put it, and that will rot and become methane.”
As the technology scales upwards and evolves, the co-founders are busy creating as many touchpoints as possible to the broader industry and are eager to explore alternative benefits.
The founders say supermarkets in Australia have been very supportive, recognising the product's potential benefits, whilst government agencies have been active in extending an arm to bring the business into roundtable discussions on bio-based packaging products.
This open, collaborative mindset stems from Kay not believing the business is competing against any local manufacturers. Instead, the company is competing against petroleum imports.
“We believe we should outperform plastic, so that's the best way we can get people to convert,” Kay confirms.
Kay dreams of one day re-connecting with his old lifestyle of planting sticks in the ground but doesn’t see it in his near future. For the time being, he appears content with making a positive impact on the environment and is proud he can make this happen back where he grew up, in Mornington Peninsula.
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