Sustainability startup Bearhug gets paws on funding to roll out reusable pallet wraps

Sustainability startup Bearhug gets paws on funding to roll out reusable pallet wraps

Esker Beer is one of 70 Australian companies using Bearhug's reusable pallet wraps to reduce their plastic footprint.

Born out of a truck driver's frustration at wasting a kilogram of plastic every day on conventional pallet wraps, a Sydney-based startup has developed a sturdier, reusable alternative that is now embraced by more than 70 customers nationwide, and likely more down the road thanks to a recent funding round.

While studying business and a practical problem-solving degree called 'creative intelligence & innovation' at University Technology Sydney (UTS), Tom Field worked as a part-time truck driver for five years and saw firsthand how wasteful pallet wraps could be, discovering that they account for 1.5 per cent of all global plastic waste.

Determined to find a solution, he teamed up with university friend Max Higgins to found Bearhug in late 2022, developing a product he claims to be 10 times cheaper than plastic wrap if it is used over its 1,000-use life.

"Strength testing showed them to be more secure than plastic wrap, reducing breakages," Field explains.

"They reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, oil and water consumption associated with plastic, and can be applied in less time with less effort than traditional pallet wrap."

Bearhug co-founder Tom Field posing with his company's compact product, in contrast to piles of plastic waste.
Bearhug co-founder Tom Field posing with his company's compact product, in contrast to piles of plastic waste.

The business started out selling the wraps exclusively to craft brewers but has since expanded to service any business that wraps pallets, which is a very wide spectrum as around 95 per cent of all packaged goods will be on a pallet wrapped in plastic at some point.

Enough pallet wrap is currently produced to wrap around the earth 16,500 times each year. 

To help scale up its supply to help tackle this problem, Bearhug recently closed a $325,000 equity raise as it works with Australian fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies to improve the sustainability and efficiency of their supply chains.

Investors include angel syndicate Ecotone Ventures, angel investors Danny Bhandari and Kinsey Cotton, and construction business owner Joe Motherway.

"We are super excited to have funding to now rapidly scale Bearhug’s reusable pallet wraps and continue eliminating single use plastic from Australia’s supply chains," says Field, whose company now has five staff. 

"To date we have already eliminated 4,000kg of single use plastic which equates to over 300,000 plastic water bottles."

Co-founder Max Higgins urges businesses to have conversations about what changes can be made to avoid wasting resources from the start to the end of their supply chains. 

"As some of Australia’s largest companies begin trials for reusable-wrapped pallet movement within and between their sites, Bearhug are calling for people to take accountability for their businesses plastic use," he says. 

"To bridge the barrier of return logistics, we're also building the world’s first ‘pooling model’ for reusable pallet wraps where, just like with pallets, they can be exchanged or transferred between businesses, and collected from the end user. This hire model aims to make them viable for every step of a supply chain."

 

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