Entrepreneurs are lining up to tackle a massive environmental problem that can be summed up in just one word: plastics.
The world currently produces 20 times more plastic than it did in 1964, according to the World Economic Forum, which is one reason startups are working to reduce our dependence on this ubiquitous material. Manufacturing plastics emits carbon and creates pollution. By 2050, the world's oceans will contain more plastic by weight than fish, the WEF predicts.
Here are six companies that have created unique solutions to the plastic problem.
The co-founders of online retailer Truman's are attacking the problem of single-use plastic cleaning supplies. The Lexington, Kentucky-based company ships customers reusable spray bottles and four types of tablets specially formulated for floors, glass, kitchen, and bathroom. Fill the containers with water, drop in the tablets, and start cleaning. Shipping tiny tablets instead of full bottles creates a significantly smaller carbon footprint, and the co-founders (both formerly of Big Ass Fans) say that if 5 percent of Americans switched entirely to its product, it would reduce the amount of plastic used annually by 300 million pounds.
Resealable Stasher bags are made of food-grade silicone and can survive thousands of uses. Think Ziploc, but more durable and plastic-free. They're dishwasher-, microwave-, and freezer-safe and don't contain latex or BPA, a chemical that some studies have found to have negative health effects. Founded by Kat Nouri in 2017, the San Francisco-based company already has retail deals with Target, Whole Foods, and food co-ops across the country. Last year, Nouri appeared on Shark Tank, where she earned a $400,000 investment from Mark Cuban.
As cities, states, and eateries across the U.S. move to ban plastic straws, a number of startups are poised to take advantage. One of them is FinalStraw, which launched with a bang on Kickstarter last year, blasting through its goal en route to raising some $1.9 million. Its metal straw uses a unique design to address the convenience issues of reusable ones: It folds up to fit inside a carrying case that can attach to a key ring; a mini pipe cleaner is included to keep things sanitary. The company, which made $4.8 million in sales in 2018 after its April launch, will be competing with others focusing on paper straws.
This Canadian startup is using a natural solution to replace a common household product: plastic wrap. Meant to mimic the natural peels and rinds on fruit and vegetables, each Abeego sheet--a hemp-and-cotton cloth infused with beeswax, tree resin, and jojoba oil--can be washed and reused with an average lifespan of more than a year. Founder Toni Desrosiers invented the product more than a decade ago. After she went on Dragon's Den, the international version of Shark Tank, in early 2017, sales tripled year-over-year, according to the company's website.
5. Revolution Bag
Little Rock-based Revolution Bag creates garbage bags from plastics that aren't recycled at standard facilities, then supplies them to clients like the city of Austin, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, and the Nashville Zoo. Founded in 2010, the company started off collecting and melting down polyethylene used by the agriculture industry. Last year, it launched a pilot with Chipotle to recycle gloves used by its workers. (The fast-casual company's stores go through 375 million per year, most of which end up in landfills.) Revolution received a $3 million grant from the state of California in 2017 and is aiming to sell its bags to other eatery chains soon.
Headquartered in New Jersey, TerraCycle is pioneering the Loop system, an initiative through which products are sold in reusable containers. Earlier this year, dozens of brands announced their participation, including Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo. TerraCycle, which specializes in finding uses for difficult-to-recycle materials (cigarette butts and dirty diapers, to name a couple) and pulled in $33 million in revenue last year, according to founder Tom Szaky, will launch the system by mail in New York and Paris. It expects to expand to other cities--and to give customers the option to buy and drop off the Loop containers at stores--later this year.