Compostable packaging drives the growth of Hero Packaging

Hero Packaging, an Australian founded home-compostable shipping packaging business, has committed to removing plastic from packaging and shipping in Australia and around the world

As an Australian founded home-compostable shipping packaging business committed to removing plastic from packaging and shipping in Australia and the world, its co-founders Anaita Sarkar and Vikram Davé share their business journey and what drives the company.

Q: What is the story behind Hero Packaging and how did it become the business it is today?

Anaita Sarkar (AS): We are a husband and wife duo who are committed to removing plastic from packaging and shipping in Australia. I had a business before Hero Packaging where I was selling handbags and accessories. That business was growing and we were sending out a lot of packages, which was using a lot of plastic. It horrified me how much plastic I myself was generating.

We knew there had to be another way to package items without plastic, so we looked for an Australian eco-friendly shipping solution. We looked and looked but came up empty-handed because we only managed to find paper mailers which weren’t waterproof and cardboard boxes which weren’t the right solution for us.
So, we began our mission to create shipping mailers that fulfilled our requirements. We worked hard to find supply chain partners who not only use completely renewable materials, but also have environmentally ethical practices and processes.

Vikram Davé (VD): We have learnt along the way that recycling is not enough. About 90 per cent of plastics and food scraps end up in landfill, and in that environment, they turn into methane which is a deadly enemy of our planet. So, we decided to specialise in mailers that were 100 per cent home compostable, but also made from such materials that if they ended up in landfill, they would still break down with no waste. That’s how our business started. We have our non-padded home compostable shipping mailers, Heropack, and also a padded compostable solution, Herobubble.

In 2020, with the online boom, we saw a huge growth in our business – we’re now a seven-figure business with over 22,000 customers including: Cue, Lush Cosmetics, Veronica Mayne and Ripcurl, to name a few. We primarily service Australia but we’re increasing our reach into an international customer base in the US, Canada and Europe. More importantly, we’ve saved over 6,000,000 plastic mailers from entering the planet.

We have two parts to our business – in addition to the home compostable shipping mailers, we also have national and international retailers that come to us to get their branding on compostable mailers. In terms of off the shelf mailers, our customers vary from small businesses – about 80 to 85 per cent – all the way to large online retailers.

We also have customers in the custom area – we consider ourselves the colour experts of compostable packaging. So, if brands want that extra bright colours or more than one colour on the mailers, we can create that.

Q: What are the compostable shipping mailers made of?

VD: They’re made of a mixture of two things – primarily polylactic acid (PLA), which is essentially cornstarch – that’s the renewable component – and a synthetic, certified compostable substance called perivascular adipose tissue (PVAT). Those two products mixed together creates the certified home compostable material, which is then converted into shipping mailers.

Q: Sustainability is the message of the business – how has its uptake evolved since the company was created?

VD: Local governments have been increasingly banning the use of single-use plastics and many industries are increasingly move towards reusable plastics. In addition, online retail is growing at such a fast pace, even more so after the emergence of COVID. But you don’t see the full impact of all these plastic packages in front of you. It is an environmental impact that’s happening on the background – it’s such a big, underlying problem that needs to be addressed.

AS: With small businesses, sustainability is a complex issue – it’s something that they do want to do but many of them don’t know how to do it. So, what we’re trying to do, with the creation of our products, is simplify it for them. It’s a simple step that they have to take to make their business more sustainable, and it’s an option that isn’t plastic. Packaging used to be just an afterthought because all there was in the market was plastic, but now it’s one of the first few things that companies think of to drive their business sustainability.

Q: What is the difference is adopting compostable materials versus PET plastics?

VD: With recycled PET and the marketing around that, there’s a lot of ‘greenwashing’ that happens because there is a plastics industry that needs to survive. We think that by supporting the market for recycled plastics, you’re also supporting the initial creation of virgin plastics and giving the plastics industry a justification for continuing because plastic can be recycled.

AS: For consumers and businesses, they need to realise that whilst recycled plastic is good for the environment and that they’re repurposing plastic into something else, they’ve got to look at the end of life of anything that comes into market. And the end of life for recycled plastic is in landfill and into the ocean.

Even if it goes into recycling, only nine per cent of those are going to get recycled, and then again only nine per cent of those get recycled. By the end of it, almost all of these recycled plastics end up polluting our planet and remain there for hundreds of years. With compostable materials, they do fully break down.

Q: What sets Hero Packaging apart from its competitors?

AS: We’ve got the biggest range of compostable mailers – possibly in the world at this point. We’ve offered coloured mailers from the beginning and we keep on adding new colours. We’ve also partnered with other business owners to create limited edition mailers.

We’re also keeping an eye on what’s happening in the market so that we can create new, sustainable products that are in demand. We’re a fast-growing business and that’s just because of our range and the fact that our brand is fun. We also try to make packaging on-brand.

VD: A lot of Hero Packaging’s customers understand where our brand is positioned – we will never sell plastic, even recycled plastic mailers. We are completely against any use of plastic. There are a lot of companies out there that may sell compostable mailers, but they will sell it alongside plastic mailers and other plastic products. These businesses don’t really care about the environment; they deal with it purely on a transactional level.

Whereas we’re looking at it to make an impact. The reason why our customers choose us is because they’re on board with that mission. We’re not just a company trying to sell mailers, we want to make an impact on the environment.

Q: What would be the first step for a business in their compostable journey?

VD: The transition is pretty simple – we offer samples and they’re available for purchase on our website. Our customers, before transitioning, use certain sizes and configurations for their different products. So generally, what we recommend is for customers to get a sample from us before the transition. They can have a look at all the different colours and sizes that are available and then can match up with what they’re currently using to what we offer and see what works best for them. Following that, it’s just a case of shipping how they normally would.

Q: What are Hero Packaging’s aims moving forward?

AS: There are two things we want to focus on – one is growing the business, introducing new products and launching internationally. We’re at the start of our business journey and want to grow it enormously.
Without having to give too much away, we’re looking to bring any products related to e-Commerce into our compostable range. We want to make sure that the entire e-Commerce process is plastics free, which includes labels, sleeves and even consumer-style packaging.

On the other side of it is the education around compostability and being sustainable in business. We’re trying to build a communication and education network amongst our business leaders that use Hero Packaging and educate them on how to compost the right way, and then how they can educate their consumers on how to use the packaging once they receive it. We also want to talk to schools and councils and get this process, which is currently in its infancy, going and growing.

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