With yet another MCO kicking off the new year for Malaysians, it’s no surprise that the amount of plastic packaging waste will spike again with deliveries.
When they noticed this problem during the first MCO, Wei Qi and her boyfriend Adrian decided to take matters into their own hands in June 2020.
“We were very concerned with the increased use of plastic packaging, due to the rise in online tapau deliveries. Hence, we were motivated to empower F&B businesses to #packitgreen,” shared Wei Qi, the founder of Circlepac, a compostable packaging company, with Vulcan Post.
Catering To Home Businesses, Cafes, Restaurant Chains, And Hotels
Currently, Circlepac caters to 68 customers that range from home businesses to 5-star hotels. Some of these establishments include TinyGreens, Omulab, Little People, and Mandarin Oriental KL.
“The name Circlepac came from Packaging for the Circular Economy, and the logo resembles a pac-man which we hope eats away the ‘ghosts’ (plastic) in the environment,” Wei Qi shared.
“Our packaging is made of renewable plant-based materials such as bamboo, bagasse, and FSC-certified birchwood. They are also certified compostable within 90-270 days,” she assured.
They also tried and tested their products with local industrial composting facilities, and found that they could be composted within 24 hours.
“When potential customers enquire about our packaging, they would usually want to get their hands on it to touch and feel before making a decision,” Wei Qi shared.
So, they’ll provide sample packages with mix-and-match options for customers to stress-test their products to see if they’re suitable for their business.
For instance, if a customer wanted to know if their packaging can be baked with food in the oven, they can immediately test it out for them to see.
Part of their innovation for the packaging includes regularly stress-testing their packaging under extreme conditions and temperatures to test their durability and disclose these findings to their customers.
“We put the packaging into the freezer around -18°C and into the oven at 150°C to see if the packaging will deform,” she shared.
After many rounds of these these stress-testing, they found that their packaging can withstand temperatures from -20°C to 120°C.
Convincing Businesses To Make The Switch
“Cost is a major factor for F&B merchants and plastic will always win when it comes to being cost-efficient,” Wei Qi admitted.
To help you gauge the price difference between Circlepac’s packaging and those of the standard plastic kind available anywhere online, here’s a table.
While larger establishments like restaurant chains and hotels may be able to absorb the cost, this pricing may be a bit out of budget for home businesses and cafes.
Wei Qi understands this problem and is working towards offering a better rate to home-based businesses, whom they are actively trying to include in their business.
“We understand the pain of small or home-based businesses having to deal with high minimum order quantity (MOQ) from packaging suppliers. Hence, we’re aiming to lower our MOQ to 100 or 125 pieces for them,” she shared.
That being said though, most of their early customers were already familiar with sustainability and its importance, and are also advocates for this cause themselves.
Hence, when Wei Qi and Adrian assess their prospects, their strategy is to look into these prospects’ existing packaging and gauge if they are close to Circlepac’s target audience, or are keen on adopting eco-friendly packaging.
“The audience that we pull in right now are mainly environmental enthusiasts, so we are grateful that these businesses are on the same page with us, and believe in the value Circlepac provides.”
However, they’re also hoping to cater to a wider audience, such as kopitiams and mamaks that Malaysians frequent.
Close To A 6-Figure Revenue In 6 Months
Circlepac is currently in their sixth month of operations, and Wei Qi shared that they are very close to hitting a 6-figure overall revenue. Their goal is to grow that number 4 times more than what it is now by the end of next year.
“We are proud to say that we are a profitable company while we ensure that we’re playing our part towards a greener environment,” she shared. These profits will be invested back into the business for at least 1-2 years.
How much they can sell per month differs from customer to customer, though. Some home-based businesses will only order a few thousand whereas some will stock up tens of thousands for the entire month.
Their most popular product thus far is their 4-compartment Lunch Box with a T-Lock, which is a restaurant favourite, thanks to its versatility.
Besides takeaway boxes, they also sell compostable plates and bowls, sugarcane straws, as well as wooden cutleries. You can also request for custom branding on these products that will come in the form of stickers and sleeves.
Some Immediate Goals For Q1 2021
While this current MCO could be a good time for them to drive up sales, the pair actually sees this as a break time for them to connect with their customers more and understand their needs better.
They’ve been conducting surveys with both their current and potential customers, as well as focusing on education and raising awareness through their marketing on social media. For now, their immediate goal is to expand their product range.
“To stabilise our supply, we are looking to double the number of our customers by the end of Q1 2021 to around 130-150 businesses and speak with relevant stakeholders,” Wei Qi shared with Vulcan Post.
In the long run, Wei Qi and Adrian are working towards creating a system to collect Circlepac’s disposed packaging and converting them to compost, which will be stages 2 and 3 of their goal of closing the consumption loop.
Featured Image Credit: Wei Qi and Adrian, founders of Circlepac