Plastic containers end up in landfills and oceans around the world as more countries stop accepting our recycled products. It adds up: the average American uses and throws 110 pounds of single-use plastic every year, but only 8% of plastic is recycled in the United States.
You might think that all of those double-shell plastic containers that we get from restaurants, food delivery services, and grocery stores are recyclable, but the reality is, not all recycling centers accept them.
Collection of reusable containers from Dispatch Goods. Image credits: Maude Ballinger
Ship goods co-founder and CEO Lindsey Hoell launched the company in 2019 to build an infrastructure that takes care of the heavy lifting of plastic containers, freezer packaging and packaging. All these are brought back to the company’s facilities where they are washed, disinfected and sold for reuse. Even restaurant or food delivery customers can text a number on the containers to schedule Dispatch Goods home pickup or drop their containers into a return bin.
Prior to starting the business, Hoell had a career in medicine, but dreamed of moving to California and becoming a surfer. She eventually moved to California, where she became aware of the plastic crisis. Hoell met her co-founder, Maia Tekle, through the Sustainable Ocean Alliance as she launched Dispatch Goods. At the time, Tekle was responsible for West Coast Partnerships at Caviar.
“Recycling makes people believe they are doing something right, but when we dug deeper we found that we weren’t always doing well if there wasn’t demand in the aftermarket,” Hoell told TechCrunch. âThe containers can only be recycled, but there is no good infrastructure in place to collect the containers and process them. “
Dispatch Goods has set out to build this infrastructure and collect and now processes between 10,000 and 15,000 food packages per week. He already works with more than 50 clients, like DoorDash, Imperfect Foods and 50 restaurants in the Bay Area, including Bombera, which has replaced 4,000 containers since he started using Dispatch Goods this summer, Hoell said.
After replacing some 250,000 total single-use plastics at its customers in 2021, the company is today announcing seed funding of $ 3.7 million. The tour was led by Congruent Ventures and included Bread and Butter Ventures, Precursor Ventures, Incite Ventures, MCJ, and Berkeley SkyDeck. The latest investment gives Dispatch Goods total funding of just under $ 4.7 million, Hoell told TechCrunch.
Hoell and Tekle are hands-on founders, even learning to drive trucks and forklifts, but their small team needed a boost, especially after seeing their monthly income drop from $ 700 last September to $ 20,000. in May.
They sought capital with the intention of expanding the team and outfitting their current facilities, including a microhub in San Francisco, to be able to handle the growth that was occurring outside of this area and its new ones. facilities in Baltimore.
âThis use case didn’t exist before, so we’re making the most of it until we can strategize on what a reuse facility would look like,â Hoell said. “We’re building this right now.”
They plan to invest the new funding in further geographic expansion, adding more restaurant partnerships and exploring new packaging opportunities. The company will also hire three new people by the end of the year to join its current workforce of nine.
Although Dispatch Goods mainly works with partner restaurants, it launched a pilot program for consumers last month. Hoell said there was interest on that side, but the company would stick with selling to businesses so that the ultimate barrier to entry is low.
Hoell did not go into detail with growth metrics, but said the company is tracking the number of items it collects and the number of stops it makes. At launch, the company was collecting around four articles per stop, and that number has grown to an average of 12 articles, while the number of stops has grown to around nine (down from three).
Meanwhile, Hoell and Tekle are delighted to welcome Christina O’Conor, Vice President of Congruent Ventures, as one of the new members of their board of directors.
âThe zero waste movement is growing rapidly and we see circular packaging as an inevitable part of a sustainable future,â O’Conor said in a written statement. âLindsey and Maia have demonstrated that they have the drive, strategic insight and passion to build new systems to support an infrastructure designed for reuse. “
They also have some star power within their advisory team with actor Adrian Grenier, co-founder of DuContra Ventures. Grenier said what Dispatch Goods is doing has “been stuck in my head for a long time.” In fact, it’s so plastic-proof that it avoids take-out whenever possible and even brings its own reusable containers.
âWe know how difficult it can be to reinvent the world,â he added. âEveryone is excited about the on-demand lifestyle that technology has given us, but at what cost? Dispatch Goods can spare businesses the convenience and empower them to afford this kind of business model change.