Purpose Prize Fellow 2015
A laid off businessman uses consumer waste to design and manufacture eco-friendly packaging and combat global plastic pollution
I have always worked for others. Some employers have been small start-ups, others large multinationals. But I had never done anything entrepreneurial, until I founded PulpWorks in 2011.
My last position was as Senior Director of Operations at a mid-sized consumer products company. Struggling through the recession, my employer went through rounds of layoffs. Days before Christmas 2009, the ax fell on me. I was 64 years old. I reverted to consulting, but I wanted much more.
One day, my wife showed me some plastic blister packaging she could not open. That ridiculousness changed my life. I decided to find a sustainable solution. Over my 35-year career, I had the experience, the contacts, and now, the passion to make a difference – for people and our planet. It was as if a great internal toggle switch had been flicked. I went from employee to entrepreneur without hesitation.
I founded PulpWorks in response to a worldwide plastic pollution crisis. Our planet is choking in toxic waste. In the U.S. alone, 31 million tons of plastic waste was generated in 2015.
- PulpWorks blister-pack packaging made from recycled paper and agricultural waste eliminates the need for plastic recycling and incineration.
- Sustainable hot-drink lids keep 3 billion pounds of garbage out of landfills annually.
- Groupon’s switch from toxic Styrofoam to recyclable packaging prevents 100,000 packages dumped into landfills.
Plastic packaging counts for 40 percent of the garbage in landfills. For example, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) accounts for 7 billion pounds of landfill in the U.S. every year. PVC production puts 130 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere every year, and when it breaks down in landfills, the powerful greenhouse gas, methane, is released. When it’s burned, PVC releases dioxins – compounds linked with cancer that harm the immune and reproductive systems.
We use actual garbage – consumer waste – to design and manufacture eco-friendly product packaging. Our non-toxic blister pack is made of 100 percent recycled pulp and paper, eliminating the need for incineration and recycling. This is our response to the need for packaging that reduces the negative impact on the environment.
We are testing a new, compostable hot-drink lid with one of the nation’s largest manufacturer, in hopes of saving 3 billion pounds (in drink lids) from landfills. We convinced one of our largest clients, Groupon, to drop their Styrofoam packaging for our sustainable alternative, preventing the dumping of 100,000 toxic packages in 2015 alone. A strategic partnership with TennEra LLC is expected to lead to the repurposing of a manufacturing facility and dozens of new jobs.
I have never been more challenged or fulfilled. I have no regrets about starting when I did. I simply wasn’t prepared before then.