In March 2020 – when the fabric of our world was torn apart by a global pandemic – Jordy and Julia Kay were tearing apart another kind of fabric (the plastic one that wraps everything from sandwiches to shipping containers) and making a new one, one that doesn’t cost our planet. The wrap that this Melbourne based couple were working on is now known as Great Wrap, and is saving us from plastic pollution one stretch-wrapped pallet at a time.
Bringing the world’s first certified compostable and biodegradable stretch wrap to the market, Jordy and Julia have witnessed first hand what a sustainable future means to big businesses. While many of us look at the targets set by multinational companies as impossible-to-achieve greenwashing, Julia and Jordy have been speaking with the people who are working to make carbon-neutral, plastic-free business possible. We spoke with Jordy about the Great Wrap journey, but what came out of the conversation was a sense of hope for a greener future. It starts with two people deciding that a problem they face every day needs solving, and that they could be the ones to solve it. J and J Kay, we salute you.
Working as a natural wine-maker – farming organically, waxing and labelling bottles by hand – Jordy was faced every day with the problem of plastic pallet wrap. No matter how sustainable the rest of the process was, the product was ultimately wrapped in a petroleum based wrap which inevitably ended up in landfill. His wife Julia – an architect – was faced with a similar challenge. “Julia would spend a year designing a beautiful building and selecting sustainable, locally made materials, and then they’d arrive wrapped in pallet wrap” Jordy explains. To give an idea of the extent of the problem, Jordy explains that in Australia alone, we use 150,000 tonnes of stretch wrap (which refers to domestic cling wrap and the palette wrap used in industries) every year: enough to circumnavigate the earth a few hundred times. The scale was made clear to Julia and Jordy when, in the first few months of bringing Great Wrap to the market, they sold enough wrap to cover the distance from Melbourne to Perth: 3,000 kilometres of compostable, plant-based wrapping that would otherwise have been a plastic-based, polluting alternative.
We asked Jordy what the response has been like from Australian businesses since their launch…
“It’s been amazing. We’ve had some awesome people reaching out: offering help, promotion, support. It’s been incredibly touching and so exciting.
What’s really struck me has been the way that so many partnerships for Great Wrap have been sparked by someone at a different level in the business liking what we do, and encouraging their team to connect. Our partnerships with big companies haven’t necessarily been started by the person who handles procurement or packaging, but someone who sees this problem every day and wants their business to be involved in solving it.
A lot of people in the top end of larger companies got there because they were really driven by success, and they’ve got to those positions because they deserve it, because they’re good at what they do. But now we live in an era where your success isn’t measured in revenue, it’s measured in your sustainability outputs: what are you doing to connect with your community…how can you run a business that doesn’t just make money, but which improves the world? Companies are starting to look outwards, and look at how they can do a better job. And although there are the customer and the government incentives, a lot of sustainability decisions are driven by the young guns in the organisations. There are amazing young people at every level in every organisation who believe in making the world a better place: people who have it in their DNA to care about the environment.
We’re really lucky at the moment because we’re having really great conversations with people in some of the world’s biggest companies who want to use our pallet wrap, and we’re slowly finding a way to make that happen. With the help we’ve received from the industry, and with the funding we’ve secured, we’re looking to make enough wrap in 2021 to circumnavigate the earth five times over. And that’s only possible because the demand is there: there is a big shift coming, and it’s going to happen over the next five years. A lot of plastic-free, carbon-neutral targets have been set for 2025 and 2030, and they can seem a little pie in the sky until you’re talking to the people and the businesses who are actually making them happen.”
And industrial pallet wrap isn’t Great Wrap’s only product: they’re also solving domestic sustainability issues by bringing a compostable, biodegradable cling wrap to Aussie kitchens.
“Making the cling wrap for home was a really beautiful, rewarding experience. We started to see it in people’s homes, on their social media feeds, and that was a really touching thing: helping people feel more positive about cooking.”
I ask where I can buy Great Wrap for home, and Jordy tells me:
“We’ve been sold out of the household cling wrap for a while. We’re working with a new manufacturer in Melbourne, and with lockdown we haven’t been able to start production, but hopefully by the end of the month we’ll do a big run. At the moment we’re working with DRNKS and a few other smaller greengrocers across Australia. We’ve had a lot of retailers contact us for stock, so by the end of December we should be in about 30 – 40 shops across Australia. The process of securing stockists has been so rewarding too: there have been a few instances where customers have asked their local shops to stock Great Wrap, which backs the whole “vote with your wallet” theory. The consumer has so much power, and you don’t realise how much until you go into your local store: if you ask them to stock a product, they probably will.”
By April 2021, it will be two years since Jordy and Julia – with no chemical engineering experience between them, but a shared determination to make a difference – set about creating Great Wrap. With the help of engineers, manufacturers, academics and experts (and funding from companies from Bank Australia to Amazon) they’ve since created the world’s first certified compostable, biodegradable stretch wrap and in doing so, are stopping our world wrapping itself in plastic.
Speaking to Jordy is inspiring not simply because of what him and Julia have achieved, but because of his informed, optimistic outlook.
As Jordy explains:
“Incredible companies are making amazing progress in the fight against plastic. The Australian packaging covenant has committed to the target of making all packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, and we’re seeing the government – on both state and federal levels – investing a lot into the circular economy”.
“It’s really important to be aware of the challenges but maintain a positive mindset. Evaluate, understand, but at the end of the day, focus on the positives. Because the great people you meet, people want to listen to, are the people focusing on the beautiful things that are happening in the world.”
We were connected with Great Wrap by Bank Australia: a proud partner of The Conscious Space. We’ve been shining a light on the work that Bank Australia continues to do in the sustainability space over the past few months. You can read about Bank Australia’s B Corp certification here, and read our interview with their Senior Sustainability Consultant Jarrod Troutbeck here. To pre-order Great Wrap for your home and keep up to date with their progress, visit www.greatwrap.co
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