Meet | The Better Packaging Co.
Many of us are aware of the need to reduce our waste in the industry, and fashion packaging is arguably one of the major areas where we need to improve our practice. My inquiry lead me to this amazing start up out of NZ, THE Better Packaging Co. The founders, Kate Bezar and Rebecca Percasky, are two inspiring women with a distinct vision and a game-changing product that is; biodegradable, renewable, nontoxic and durable...
WORDS | PETER NAUGHTON
Interview with co-founder Kate Bezar
How would you describe The Better Packaging Co? What is your overall mission?
We design revolutionary packaging solutions for the new eco-nomy – a circular economy in which generating waste is not an option and the earth’s resources are not treated as infinite. Our mission is to replace as many single-use plastic items as possible with sustainable alternatives, starting with eCommerce packaging.
Can you share a little bit about your background and that of your co- founder?
Rebecca and I have known each other for years and worked together for a number of those. She always threatened to drag me into her next business venture, but when she talked me through her vision to replace plastic courier satchels with sustainable alternatives there was no dragging required, I was in!
Rebecca’s background is in technology and eCommerce fulfilment and about 15 years ago I started a magazine called Dumbo feather which profiles inspiring individuals living their values and doing incredible things. The magazine is still going strong with a new team running it. I’m now just an avid reader and love what it stands for.
How have your personal values shaped your work?
I find it impossible to work on anything I’m not passionate about and I can’t be passionate about something that doesn’t strongly line up with my values. When I started Dumbo feather every decision was weighed up against a set of values; primarily authenticity and respect (for readers and the environment). Rebecca and I are trying to do the same thing with TBPCo.
I remember interviewing a great guy for the mag called Remo Guiffre - Sydneysiders might remember his iconic REMO General Store on Oxford St… He said your career ‘sweet spot’ is where your Passion, Skills and What the Market Needs/Wants intersect. With TBPCo. Rebecca and I both feel like we’re in that sweet spot; we couldn’t be more passionate about what we’re doing, all the skills and contacts we’ve developed over the course of our careers are coming into play, AND we’re getting an incredible response from the market for our products.
At what point did you decide to build a business that adopted a transformative, healthier solution? Talk us through your journey from concept to launch.
A healthier solution for the planet has always (and always will be) our reason for being in business. Our challenge now is to find the best solutions possible, to understand their full lifecycle impact on the environment, and to communicate that effectively with our customers.
It’s been a rollercoaster already. We have been super-excited about products only to do our research and find out that some of the key environmental claims were false or at least weren’t practically possible. Ironically though, it’s been these ‘failures’ that have driven us to keep searching and eventually find something even better!
Which materials do you work with and why? Talk us through some of the pros and cons.
We have two ranges of products. One range, our ØPACKSTM, is better in terms of sourcing raw materials and its clean production, but it’s end-of-life options are somewhat limited by the state of recycling in Australia and NZ.
Our comPOSTTM Range of plant-based, certified home compostable satchels, padded envelopes and bubble wrap, isn’t quite as squeaky clean in production, but at end-of-life all inputs go back into making new soil which is fantastic right.
What have been the greatest lessons you have learned during your time working in this space?
Do your research. Don’t take anyone’s word for it - get out there, talk to people at the coal face about the realities of the different materials and the industry, and find people you really trust to work with. There’s a LOT of ‘greenwashing’ and quite frankly unverified claims. When you’re at the forefront of new materials a lot comes down to trust and the ability to go on a journey together.
As we know, a lot of the damaging aspects of the fashion industry are systemic. Sustainability has become such an important topic in business, so how do you think we can make meaningful and lasting improvements in regard to packaging?
For decades society has taken the use of packaging (and plastic in particular) for granted, so much so that it’s become ubiquitous. Now, we urgently need to audit every time packaging is used and question whether or not it is really, really required. For example, does every piece of clothing need to be individually bagged? If it is genuinely needed, there are now real alternatives to single-use plastics - compostable bags are an example, re-usable packaging is another. This will likely mean working closely with everyone along your supply chain and reengineering the way that things are done up and downstream.
Are there any business models or ways of approaching sustainability that particularly impress you?
Our heroes are anyone who has managed to create truly circular products and solutions. Some of our customers, we like to call them ‘Better Friends’, are doing extraordinary things in terms of providing sustainable alternatives; check out Sure Project for cork rollers, Bag Stack for re-usable bags, Mane Project who are dedicated to transparent ethical manufacturing and using only organic textiles …
What has changed since you first began this journey?
My compost has a lot more packaging in it!
What has been the most rewarding aspect of setting up the Better Packaging Co.?
Every time I think about how many plastic bags we’re taking out of circulation - out of landfill at best and oceans at worst… it gives me a massive buzz. It’s just so rewarding being part of the solution.
When looking to the future of the packaging industry, what excites and/or daunts you most?
I love how quickly the technology is moving in terms of new materials development. I also love the way people-power is demanding change and gradually, oh so gradually, industry is listening. The most daunting thing is trying to change and lobby the giants of the recycling industry. The technology they use is old, their processes are unsophisticated, and they seem so jaded.
Do you have any other comments or insights you would like to share?
Some of us are in a position to do more than others to fix what is a real environmental problem, but all of us can do a little bit… and lots of little bits add up to a lot!
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
The Better Packaging Co. are looking to partner with brands that want to develop a suite of packaging solutions for fashion. For more information about the product and the opportunity to get involved with this project please contact Peter Naughton via firstname.lastname@example.org