Julie Corbett’s business venture is based on the idea that sometimes a small change can make a huge difference.
Founded in May 2008, Ecologic Brands Inc. develops sustainable packaging that can be recycled or composted for items like milk and laundry detergent. The company aims to produce packaging that result in less waste than traditional wrappers, bottles and containers.
“Greater change happens when the change is mainstream,” Corbett said. “I think to some degree those looking to make environmental changes have shot themselves in the foot because they work too hard on being radical. Small changes implemented by many are more impactful.”
According to Ecologic, 71 percent of plastic milk jugs and laundry detergent bottles are sent to landfills. Corbett also noted that paper is far more likely to be recycled than plastic.
With these statistics in mind, Ecologic and Corbett have already designed a new, more socially conscious container. Ecologic’s containers like its laundry detergent bottle have an outer shell made out of 100 percent recycled cardboard and newspaper. This material can be recycled up to seven more times or composted and would disintegrate within 12 weeks in an industrial compost environment. The container’s thin inner plastic pouch is recyclable and uses up to 70 percent less plastic than other thicker jugs.
Seventh Generation, a company that distributes environmentally friendly household and personal care products, is already using this bottle for a line of laundry detergent that can be found in 7,000 stores. Seventh Generation predicted that it can save a million barrels of petroleum by converting to this technology, Corbett said. Corbett said Seventh Generation’s sales were up 25 percent since the launch of the new bottle in March.
“This is proving that if consumers are given the choice, they will buy detergent in a better packaging,” Corbett said. “The product will sell as long as the product is good and the package performs and there is no downside to the functionality.”
The seed for Ecologic was planted when Corbett’s daughters participated in a school competition to see which class could have the least amount of waste after each lunch period. Corbett’s daughters began badgering her to pack their lunches with items that would produce as little trash as possible.
“I knew nothing about packaging. It wasn’t even on my mind,” Corbett said. “When you start worrying about waste you start thinking about how can I minimize my waste? There are a lot of things you can do to cut down. For example, you can buy Tupperware instead of Ziplocs.”
This started Corbett thinking about the amount of waste that comes with everyday products ranging from pretzels to pet care necessities. But inspiration really struck in 2007 after she opened the box for a new iPhone. She saw that Apple had used a smooth and sturdy molded fiber tray in its packaging. She realized that a material like this could help reduce the waste in other household products’ packaging.
“I had this epiphany,” she said. “I realized that I can walk down the cereal aisle and see the different choices of corn flake brands -- but we need more choice for better packaging.”
And given that grocery stores are filled with items with wasteful packaging, Corbett sees her company’s possibilities as endless. She said she is willing to work with any company, even ones that produce potentially harmful products, that want to make a difference.
“We all know things like motor oil are super toxic, and I can’t stop toxic things from being on the market. Clearly the world needs motor oil,” Corbett said. “I don’t want to judge what’s on the inside. I want to make packaging that can reduce waste.”