The back-end of business

Pet owners will be all too familiar with the excess plastic often required to pick up after their pooch. But Bruce Hultgren, inspired by his own rescue dog, set about creating an eco-friendly solution.

“We got a rescue dog, Brady, and after a few weeks of picking up his business in the usual plastic bags, I wanted to find a better solution. After looking around, I couldn’t find one, so I created one,” Bruce told Inside FMCG

“While I was researching the whole business, I found some pretty fun but alarming things. Between 2 and 4 per cent of all of our landfill is dog crap in plastic bags. There are 4.8 million dogs in Australia producing 1200 kilograms of dog crap per day – as a visual, think of a VW Beetle, made of solid dog crap, driving into landfill every day.” 

Bearing the witty name Oh Crap! the company offers bags made from cornstarch, which are sourced from a family-owned business in China, that compost in three months. 

Bruce said he needed to learn a lot about the language around sustainability. 

“It’s no longer okay to say something is ‘degradable’ without certifications, proof or at least a timeline of disintegration,” he said.

“The key word that we uncovered was compostable and compostability. Everything in this sector has been internationally tested to meet specific degradation standards. These accreditations are internationally accepted.”

Oh Crap! bags have been internationally tested and certified as composting in 90 days in perfect conditions and 180 days in non-perfect conditions.

The science to make products using cornstarch is only about 20 years old but, as with any budding business, cost is a big factor.

“As global requirements increase, the price of the product will eventually come down. A cornstarch product can be as little as 10 per cent or up to 200 per cent more expensive to produce than a comparable plastic bag. It depends on the size, thickness and size of order.”

As more and more companies jump on the sustainable bandwagon, Bruce believes suppliers need to take the lead.

“People are prepared to invest a little more if their small, simple action will make just a slight difference. Suppliers need to take the lead on these changes and present them to the retailers. Educate them and spread the love to their customers,” he said.

“We’re a family business and we’re about making a difference, locally and nationally. Every single plastic bag we can save from landfill is a win for all of us. Every relationship we build has to be win–win for everyone.” 

This interview was first published in Inside FMCG’s quarterly magazine. Subscribe here.

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