Being on the podium of the world’s largest contributors to marine plastic pollution is not something Indonesians are proud of, and Evoware stands firmly at the forefront of changing the tide from the dramatic littering of our environment.
We aim to help Indonesia but our vision goes beyond Southeast Asia to successfully tackle a worldwide and borderless issue that needs to be addressed urgently. We have the solution in edible packaging made from seaweed, so it is time to rethink our habits.
Seaweed, or the Triple Bottom Line of Sustainability Incarnated
Indonesia is the second biggest contributor of plastic waste to the ocean. As much as 90 per cent of plastic waste ends up in the ocean, and 70 per cent of this amount comes from food and drink packaging. It is estimated that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050 — and that 25 per cent of fish available to consumers in Indonesia is already contaminated with plastic.
Needless to say, many Indonesians welcome the birth of Evoware — an Indonesian company tackling a problem the country is infamous for, that also participates in poverty alleviation, and youth education.
Fortunately, an increasing number of countries are also banning single-use plastics. In fact, the European Union will ban single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks and cotton buds by 2021. Indonesia is not inactive either. Its most famous island, the holiday resort paradise of Bali, has already banned plastic bags since January 2019 in its capital Denpasar, and made Bali-wide in June 2019. Jakarta and many other cities are drafting similar regulations.
Evoware aims to provide an alternative to some of the banned products.
David Christian launched the startup Evoware in 2016 after noticing how much trash was littered every day in his Jakartan neighbourhood. Evoware manufactures seaweed-based bio packaging to replace small-format packaging for food and non-food products such as coffee, cereal, soap, accessories, and chopstick, to name a few. The packaging is directly made from seaweed without involving any hazardous chemicals.
As a socially responsible enterprise that elevates an environmentally friendly lifestyle and provides innovative value to our increasingly urban society, Evoware gives all of us the opportunity to be closer to nature and live a more responsible and sustainable life.
We understand that being sustainable is not only about protecting the environment — it should also include two other important aspects of the triple bottom line of sustainability, i.e., the social and economic impact.
By using seaweed as our raw material, we support the livelihood of Indonesian seaweed farmers, majority of whom live in poverty. Their incomes are very low due to the oversupply of seaweed, the long marketing chain and having to deal with unethical loan sharks. In addition, five out of the six poorest provinces in Indonesia are producers of seaweed. Increasing the demand for the product could help to alleviate poverty in these regions.
We are also collaborating with the orphanage Yayasan Prima Unggul for part of our production, where adult orphans participate in the making of edible Ello Jello cups, and keep 100 per cent of the profits.
Through this, they develop a mindset towards work, not relying on external donations, and also learn sales strategies.
Tackling many problems at once is Evoware’s biggest pride. This fuels the team’s determination in making sure that the company grows to standards that will make seaweed packaging economically viable as an alternative to old-fashioned, single-use plastics.
By using seaweed as our raw material, we support the livelihood of Indonesian seaweed farmers, majority of whom live in poverty.
Scaling Up Internally and Externally
In 2018, we celebrated our second-year milestone with our Ello Jello edible cups and bowls. Designed for edible single-use, it is actually food that works as tableware made from seaweed and natural ingredients,
without preservatives, artificial sweeteners, gluten or gelatine for the best health benefits. Because we do not use preservatives, Ello Jello can stand at room temperature for three days, and seven days in a refrigerator. Change has to be fun for people to embrace it, and these cups are the perfect tool to educate the younger generation into adopting zero-waste behaviours.
Evoware has made the strong commitment of replacing 21,714 tons of plastic waste; reducing 110,216 tons of carbon dioxide with seaweed cultivation; increasing 346 farmers’ income by 2.1 times; and providing extra jobs for 728 people by 2020. To achieve these ambitious objectives, we are expanding our product range to provide more alternatives to plastic materials.
Progress at what cost?
The goal of the #RETHINK movement is to get the commitment of one million people to reduce their plastic consumption by 2020, by adopting more sustainable alternatives.
That being said, Evoware is certainly not the only innovative solution out there, and the biggest struggle shared by start-ups like ours is for the solutions to be widely adopted so that costs become competitive. Only then will we be in the best position to make a real difference. For social enterprises, there is a mix of ambitions, in being financially sustainable while creating real change in a world that needs it so much. Thus, without a significant mindset evolution, innovations will not succeed in meeting their social goals, and start-ups will not evolve towards becoming well established companies. The social enterprises will ultimately fail.
Evoware is more than conscious of this, and the start of 2019 saw us focusing on engaging our audience to adopt sustainable resolutions for the year ahead of us. From borrowing instead of buying new items to embracing home composting for organic waste, it was the first step of the #RETHINK 2019 campaign. The goal of the #RETHINK movement is to get the commitment of one million people to reduce their plastic consumption by 2020, by adopting more sustainable alternatives. This collaborative campaign is powered by individuals, communities, brands, retailers, and companies sharing the belief that people hold the power to create tomorrow’s clean communities, to be the leaders of the environment we want to live in and leave as a legacy.
Through #RETHINK, we invite people to re-evaluate their habits and start implementing better ones. The good news is that it is definitely possible to recover from our plastic addiction with the rise of alternative materials to petroleum-based plastics. However, despite educational efforts all around the world, not enough people understand the scale of the worldwide plastic pollution and the role they play in aggravating it. Thus, we aim to campaign for everyone to fully understand about our environmental issues, embrace a sustainable lifestyle, and empower their surroundings to join the movement.
As a result of evolving mindsets and increasing demand, the alternative solution needs to be appropriately available. We have received real interest from major industries and countless offers from potential distributors around the world asking us to supply in quantity. However, the demand was too overwhelming and beyond our production capacity at the time. In order to grow close to our real potential, we have built our prototype machine in 2018 and will focus on adding more machines and developing bigger ones so that we can increase production and reduce the retail price by the end of 2019. This ambitious plan will require a lot of investment, but we are confident that the company will achieve its target and take its rightful place in the packaging industry.
Meanwhile, the #RETHINK campaign will support not only our own market, but also the ones similar ventures are targeting. After all, the scale of the problem Evoware is seeking to address is far too large for us to tackle on our own and we need collective effort to solve the global problem.
Plastic pollution coupled with climate change (also partly caused by our plastic addiction), is the biggest challenge of our generation. Evoware’s founders are young, as is the company, but it takes young disruptive minds to create rapid and innovative change. We like the words of American theorist Buckminster Fuller:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Evoware is not in a fight against plastic and its manufacturers, but focuses its action in helping the market understand the need for change, rethink their habits, and making sure that the new model includes suitable alternatives.
Founders of Evoware (left to right): Surianto, Edwin Aldrin, Noryawati Mulyono, Benyawin Gunawan and David Christian.
Julien Goalabré is the Creative Director at
PREthical, which advocates for causes-driven
ventures like Evoware.
Evoware is a socially responsible enterprise that elevates an environmentally friendly lifestyle and provides innovative value to urban society. For more information, visit www.evoware.id.