Eco packaging firm Vegware supports sustainability
It all started with a spoon. Vegware Founder and Managing Director Joe Frankel was working in California when his wife brought home a spoon made from plant starch that she’d used for sampling at a local farmer’s market. “I admired it, and she told me it was made of corn and potato starch,’ Joe explains. ‘I thought that was the most wonderful thing I had ever heard. It sparked a whole train of ideas within me, and the Vegware concept was born.” Joe was so taken with the idea that once they had returned to Edinburgh, he invested his family’s savings in bioplastic resin, and Vegware became a limited company in 2008.
Fast forward eight years and Vegware is Scotland’s fifth fastest growing company, in the UK’s top 100 and operating in the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, UAE and Hong Kong. The company has received over 60 awards and accolades, including winning the Queen’s Award twice. Sustainability is at the core of Vegware’s work. Vegware’s environmental solution takes the whole of a product lifespan into account. First, all of the products are made from low carbon renewable materials and free from oil-based plastic, completely avoiding using finite materials.
Secondly, all of the products are completely compostable, and designed to be recycled with food waste. A lot of conventional food packaging is very difficult to recycle, due to it being made of a mix of materials like card, plastic or film, and then contaminated with foodwaste. Vegware’s compostable packaging offers a solution in that it can be recycled alongside foodwaste, meaning that all cleaning or sorting of the packaging gets taken out of the equation. Using and composting Vegware helps even very large sites go zero waste. The University of Cambridge composts 1.5 tonnes of used Vegware every month, while a high profile client in Canary Wharf diverted 27.3 tonnes of packaging from landfill in 2015.
Vegware have found Edinburgh to be the perfect place to start and grow a successful SME. Communications Director Lucy Frankel explains why it hasn’t been hard to build the company up to the 51 members of staff it currently employs: “Edinburgh is definitely a part of our success. We’re a UK company and we’re international, but in terms of the brain and the heart, it’s here. It’s the people really. I don’t think we’d have the crazy growth figures if it wasn’t for the team. Vegware has also enjoyed a lot of support as a Scottish business – receiving help from Scottish Development International in breaking into the EU market, and two Scottish Parliamentary Motions to boot.
Vegware’s focus on sustainability also goes beyond its packaging. In 2009, Vegware created the Vegware Community Fund to offer support to worthy causes, by offering monthly grants or a regular donation of Vegware’s eco packaging to not-for-profit organisations across the world. The Fund was relaunched in 2015, welcoming an increase in the number of recipients it could support, as well as a new blog (www.vegwarecommunityfund.org). The fund now supports over 20 recipients with monthly donations, as well as donating packaging to hundreds of good causes every year. Vegware also work with schools to engage students with sustainability. In 2015, Vegware launched the Bin Detective, a cartoon character with an educational resource kit helping schools teach about recycling. The kit includes an interactive classroom presentation, a poster, and teachers’ notes describing a range of activities.
Eilidh Brunton, Vegware’s Group Recycling Consultant explains “We see Bin Detective as a fun way to bring sustainability into the curriculum, and also to empower pupils to boost recycling rates at their schools. Teachers can run the activities, Catering Managers can display the poster, and pupils can engage with those all-important choices at the dining room recycling bin.” Created by Vegware’s environmental team, it is available for free at Vegware.com/downloads. As Vegware continues to grow, it is committed to sustainability, responsible business and supporting the wider community.
Find out more at www.vegware.com.