Plastic wrap is choking the planet – can Great Wrap revolutionise packaging? We think so
While it may save your sandwich, plastic stretch wrap is polluting the earth. With the product barely changing over the last 50 years, one young couple with no background in manufacturing are the unlikely pair revolutionising the future of stretch wrap around the world.
It’s the kind of product we take for granted so it’s no wonder that most of us barely give stretch wrap a second thought. However, the next time you heat up your plastic-clad leftovers in the microwave perhaps digest these sobering statistics:
- Each person uses an average of 17kg of stretch wrap per year adding up to a whopping 5.71 million tonnes worldwide each year.
- Australia sends more than 150,000 tonnes of stretch wrap to landfill annually, including cling film, catering film, silage film and pallet wrap.
- Americans buy enough plastic film each year to collectively shrink wrap the entire state of Texas.
The fact is, we have a serious problem with stretch wrap.
A chance meeting at a pub and an ecological challenge
For Julia Kay, 31, the issue came to the forefront in her job as an architect. “I was working on Green Star buildings focussing on how to make them more environmentally friendly, and yet every product was being delivered in endless pallet wrap,” she says.
However, it wasn’t an issue she’d explored in any depth until she met her future husband Jordy, 32, by chance at a Melbourne pub in 2019. The pair started dating and Jordy, then a winemaker, also shared the same concerns.
“Here he was making wines organically and yet sending off bottles in plastic wrap,” Kay says. “It was at odds with our values and really in our faces as a problem which is how we kicked off the research journey. With the environment in a bad shape, we felt we had enough skills to find a solution even though neither of us had a background in packaging.”
Within three months the pair were an item and had registered the name of their ambitious new company Great Wrap. The couple began doggedly researching ways to create a compostable product and came across the idea of using biodegradable potato starch from peelings. Such a wrap had never been created before, but the Kays engaged a talented team of engineers and scientists resulting in the world’s first certified compostable stretch wrap in 2020.
Uniquely, the wrap breaks down in 90 days into carbon and water leaving behind zero toxins, unlike petroleum-based biodegradable products which decompose into harmful microplastics.
Elevating the brand on the show floor
Since then, their competitively priced Nudie Rolls for kitchen use, have been a huge success, selling through the business’s website. The product has largely taken off through word of mouth with Great Wrap also generating a flurry of interest at Naturally Good 2022.
“That really helped elevate our brand presence retail wise and was very valuable in gaining feedback about the product,” says Kay. “It was the first trade show we’d done and was the right fit as the show’s values and commitment to sustainability and ethical, natural products really aligned with us.”
Backed by $24 million in Series A funding from key sustainability investors including Groundswell Ventures, Springbank Collective and Barrel Ventures, the business has come a long way from the couple’s living room. Now based at their own facility at Tullamarine with 25 employees, in March this year the company, took the next big leap by launching the world’s first compostable pallet wrap.
Now producing 5,000 tonnes of stretch wrap with a projected 20,000 tonnes planned by 2025, this effectively makes Great Wrap Australia’s largest stretch wrap manufacturer, significantly decreasing our need to import stretch wrap from other countries.
New product intriguing industry
On the back of a successful Naturally Good, the company were inspired to showcase in Melbourne at Foodpro 2023 in July and were inundated with queries about their Compostable Pallet Wrap. With many businesses now adhering to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals to eliminate plastic, companies were eager to snap up the wrap for manufacturing purposes.
“Foodpro was really invaluable as well as we got great customer exposure and some juicy leads that we are pursuing,” says Kay. “We had a constant stream of inquiries at our stand. With companies keen to reduce their carbon footprint there’s currently no other solution when it comes to eco-friendly pallet wrap.”
Apart from launching into the US market and other export territories, Kay says the business is currently working on another exciting product which they are aiming to showcase at Naturally Good 2024.
“We will be looking at securing more distributors and raising awareness for this new product at the event. Attending these shows has been really fruitful for us and an invaluable part of our business journey, especially when people can actually feel the product in front of them to connect more.”
Driven by impact and fuelled by such enthusiastic demand, the company has a grand vision to help eliminate petroleum-based plastic manufacturing over the next 10 years. “Ultimately, we’d love to see Great Wrap in every home, restaurant and warehouse across the globe. We’ve invented products we knew the world was missing so we can dump plastic once and for all.”