Compostable cling wrap that breaks down faster than orange peel
30 November 2021 at 6:49 pm
When Great Wrap founders Julia and Jordy Kay couldn’t find a compostable cling wrap they were 100 per cent happy with, they decided they’d quit their jobs, start a business and manufacture their own.
Australians churn through more than 150,000 tonnes of plastic wrap every year.
This includes cling wrap from home kitchens, catering businesses, schools, florists as well the industrial amount of plastic wrap used to keep all manner of goods secure when being delivered on wooden pallets.
It may not sound particularly glamorous but the story of Great Wrap, the world’s first certified compostable wrap, starts with these wooden pallets.
Co-founder Julia Kay told Pro Bono News that it was in her previous career as an architect that she first started to notice the sheer amount of plastic waste from deliveries when she was on site with clients.
“I was working in architecture and Jordy, my husband and co-founder, was a wine-maker and we would talk about the crazy amount of pallet wrap being used by businesses,” Kay says.
“We saw that basically, every business at some point would need to use it. Everything that’s delivered to a business comes wrapped in pallet wrap, whether that’s a grocery store, clothes or cafe deliveries. We identified it as a huge problem that no one else was looking at.”
Kay says that when they started to do their research back in 2019 they saw that the pallet wrap industry was incredibly fragmented. Most of what Australian businesses were using was being imported from overseas and because Julia and Jordy couldn’t find a solution to the problem, they decided to look into making their own.
The current formula for Great Wrap, which will continue to be iterated on, is unlike other biodegradable products, in that it doesn’t break down into microplastics. Instead, the formula breaks down into carbon and water in less than 180 days, which is faster than an orange peel.
“We did a lot of research, read a lot of papers and Jordy studied chemistry and agriculture so he understood a lot of what we wanted to do,” Kay says.
“Then 18 months ago we started a partnership with Monash University and they’ve been helping us improve our formula by bringing onboard polymer engineers and scientists.”
Expanding the business
While pallet wrap remains a key part of the business, over the last two years, Great Wrap has expanded to include other product lines.
“We realised that it’s really hard to get businesses excited about a product like pallet wrap! And so, in 2020, we decided to focus on building a direct to consumer brand,” Kay explains.
It’s something Simon Griffiths, the founder of Who Gives a Crap, has been helping out with.
“We initially went to Simon for advice because, not only do we respect him for creating Who Gives a Crap, but toilet paper, much like cling wrap, is pretty boring and he’s turned it into a successful business.
“We now meet up with him every couple of weeks and we’re very lucky to have him on board as an investor.”
Great Wrap launched direct to consumers, and the wider catering and hospitality industry, in 2020. The business continues to offer a pre-order service for pallet wrap.
Kay says that she thinks the consumer side of Great Wrap has helped in getting the brand out to a wider audience.
“As general consumers start to pay more attention to what they’re using in their homes we’ve also noticed that a lot more big businesses are now contacting us,” she says.
“Our compostable catering wrap is being trialled by Grill’d at the moment and they’re really excited by the product and how it can help them knock plastic waste out of their supply chain completely.”
Becoming a fully circular business
At the moment, Great Wrap is manufactured from a solar-powered factory on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
The team currently works with a company in Idaho in the US to help produce Great Wrap, however,
Kay’s goal is to bring the whole thing in-house.
“We’re moving to a much bigger manufacturing factory near Melbourne Airport, it will be 25 times the size of our current one, which means we’ll be able to start providing pallet wrap to some of the big players,” she says.
“We’re also doing work with Monash on our formula, which will be finished by the end of the year and then we’ll be looking to set up a biorefinery. This means we’ll be able to use our own waste to create the final product.
“It makes us a completely vertically integrated business, which also means we’re close to becoming price competitive with plastic.”
The new formula being worked on with the Great Wrap team and Monash University is set to launch in 2023 and will be a bio-polymer called PHA. The end result will be a completely organic material that will not only be home compostable, as it is now, but also fully marine degradable.
Moving into a final round of investment
As the business wraps up a successful 2021, it also moves into its final round of investment.
“We took our seed round of VC funding from a New York venture capital firm called TMV and we’re doing our Series A at the moment, which we’re planning will be our final round,” Kay says.
“We’ve got a great team of investors and I know it’s a real cliche to say it but they’ve become more than investors in the business to us, they’ve become really good friends.
“We’re closing that round of funding just before Christmas and so Jordy and I are really hoping to get some time to relax at the beach!”
Find out more about Great Wrap here