Packaging waste – you see it everywhere piling up on streets, highways, parks and beaches. The main reason for this is the concept that we call ”disposable product”, in other words: waste. This problem has become well visible issue during the pandemic, as the waste bins have been piling up with waste due to highly increased take away food demand in restaurants all over the world. Up to 4,5 megatonnes of waste come just from disposable coffee cups each year, weight equal to 600 000 adult African Elephants (there are only around 400 000 living on the planet…).
The problem is that only a small fraction of the waste is ever returned back in use either as new materials or energy, the rest of it ends in the wrong place, that is municipal waste or eventually, the nature where it causes a threat to life above and below the waterline. Our insightful founder Iida Miettinen paid attention to the issue when walking in nature some three year ago and soon after established Kamupak. She gathered a team to find a solution for the problem including co-founders Karri Lehtonen, a circular economy expert, and Eero Heikkinen, a systems architecture wizard.
Kamupak took a look into functioning practices around the globe and recognized deposit schemes achieving significantly higher return rates of the used products as compared to any other system for the purpose. The incentives within a deposit scheme make sense: you get a reward for the carrier (eg. packaging) of the product that you previously used and returned at its origin. In this context it also makes sense to reuse the product, whenever it is possible, to significantly cut down the disposable substitute’s use for the same service that the reusable products can deliver. As a result, Kamupak has created a deposit system that enables for reuse or recycling of packaging and other products to enable ecological wasteless alternatives for disposable products, as well as cost savings, network benefits and customer loyalty that creates positive externalities to all participants.
Kamupak has the deposit system up and running, and expanding, for take away packaging and coffee cups in Helsinki and elsewhere in Finland. We are currently at 52 locations, but we expect the network to double by mid October. Kamupak employs 5-6 persons and few external experts on demand at the moment and is seeking additional resources in the systems development team. We’ll be organizing a financing round to enable our expansion anytime next year. But the journey hasn’t been all roses and we want to go even futher:
- We do know that we are not the only operator in the reuse/deposit market, but our collaborative approach makes a difference. We are the first ones to offer our solution for third parties that are willing to establish a reuse or recycling scheme in a short period of time without the need to use three years of building technologies, making mistakes and wondering how the system could possibly work.
- We have done that already: we have done (a lot of) mistakes on behalf of our future customers, over which we have learned enormously about deposit systems (and we still do), we have done a lot of development work to make the system function in a way that we don’t get customer calls every day to fix a new bug somewhere (been there, done that), and we understand how a deposit scheme needs to be built as based on customers specific needs and environments.
- We want to take the journey to the next level together with our customers by bringing new deposit schemes to our platform enabling multiple parallel deposit schemes to be run simultaneously. We want to become a significant systems provider in the deposit systems market and enable our customers to make a difference and impact their operations.
Kamupak sees the EIT FAN program as a great opportunity to explore the business and collaboration opportunities within the food industry in international and home markets. The expert sessions as well as mentoring during the program has given us well needed support in areas where we need to build more understanding. The program is working in collaboration with real businesses, seeking solutions to their problems, and finding new startup partners that are struggling with similar kinds of issues as we are. We expected to find new partnerships, mentoring and customers. Currently we could easily see all of these expectations to be well met.
Written by Karri Lehtonen, CFO & Process development.