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  • There was a lot of hype in 2017 around Zume.

  • What if there was a better way to make and deliver pizza to

  • you? Turns out there.

  • Zume is revolutionizing delivery model.

  • All pizzerias out there, you're in trouble.

  • At the time Zume was a pizza company that used robots to

  • automate the pizza creation process and utilized large oven

  • carrying trucks to bake the pies as they traveled to customers.

  • The idea was a hit and earned Zume a $375 million investment

  • from SoftBank. So why are we talking about pizza made by

  • robots in a video about compostable packaging? That was

  • our question too.

  • One of the problems that we encountered in pizza was our

  • beautiful pizza with no stabilizers in it in a

  • traditional box, declined in quality from the time you cooked

  • it to the time it was delivered to the point where we didn't

  • think it was good enough. So we designed a new pizza box.

  • At the beginning of 2020 Zume laid off half of its workforce;

  • 360 employees.

  • This is another stumble for SoftBank's Vision Fund, which

  • invested $375 million into Zume, bestowing that unicorn status;

  • $1 billion valuation.

  • But the company kept going. Now Zume is dedicated to producing

  • compostable packaging that is durable and backyard

  • compostable, breaking down in a matter of 90 days. Zume is

  • breaking into the $274.2 billion sustainable packaging market,

  • which is expected to grow to $413.8 billion by 2027. But the

  • industry does face challenges.

  • I wish I could say it was just the cost, you know, and cost is

  • gonna come down or it's just that we need one thing but it's

  • really, I think a variety of factors.

  • As the oceans fill up with plastic waste, and as companies

  • make pledges to switch to greener packaging, it could be

  • great timing for Zume. So let's take a look at some roadblocks

  • in the compostable packaging industry and what can be done to

  • overcome them.

  • Let's talk about the lifecycle of a package first using a

  • takeout container as an example. Takeout containers can be made

  • of many different materials which all have their pros and

  • cons, like plastic, metal, styrofoam, cardboard, and a

  • compostable material like molded fiber. Some plastics and metals

  • can be recycled, but they have to be perfectly clean in order

  • to be made into another product. They can also be down cycled,

  • which is where they're used to create something that cannot be

  • recycled again, like a park bench. But recycling has failed

  • in the US. In 2018, less than 9% of plastic waste was properly

  • recycled in the US. And it got worse in 2019 when China stopped

  • importing American trash. So most of what you think may be

  • getting recycled is actually getting sent to landfills or

  • making its way into rivers and oceans.

  • The UN says that by 2050, we'll have more plastic than fish in

  • the ocean. Plastic's become so prevalent that every person on

  • the planet eats a credit cards with a plastic a week.

  • Plastic recycling has actually been considered by some to be a

  • ploy by oil companies to make plastic production seem more

  • environmentally friendly than it is. And even sending food scraps

  • to the dump can be harmful.

  • When you're actually introducing those organics in a landfill,

  • you create a lot of methane. And as you know, methane is a very

  • important greenhouse gas emission. So then you want to

  • reduce that amount of organics that you send to the landfill.

  • But the US loves plastic. The country generated more than 14.5

  • million tons of plastic in 2018. It's not easy to get away from

  • that.

  • Plastic's an amazing material, it's miraculous, and the

  • convenience of plastic has powered many of the modern

  • conveniences that we enjoy as consumers around the world. But

  • unfortunately, the things that make plastic great come with

  • catastrophic consequences.

  • Aluminum containers are a bit easier to recycle but still only

  • saw about a 35% recycle rate in 2018. Cardboard is recyclable

  • and compostable, but only if it's clean and doesn't have some

  • sort of coating on it. Virgin cardboard can also contribute to

  • the deforestation of endangered habitats. Styrofoam, or

  • polystyrene is technically recyclable, but not in a way

  • that is economically feasible or environmentally effective. Many

  • cities and states including New York City, Maine, Vermont,

  • Maryland, and a long list of cities in California have

  • completely banned the use of polystyrene and the trend is

  • growing. Compostable materials seem like a solution to these

  • recycling issues but come with their own set of confusing

  • marketing tactics and end of life difficulties. For instance,

  • the word biodegradable which is used to describe certain

  • materials like plastic made from corn has been scrutinized.

  • That necessarily does not mean that a bio acronym at the

  • beginning will mean that the polymer is from a based

  • resources or is biodegradable and if it's biodegradable that

  • doesn't mean that it's compostable either.

  • The word biodegradable on its own for a marketing term is seen

  • as potentially pretty misleading. So several states

  • have passed laws actually forbidding the term

  • biodegradable in marketing language when it comes to single

  • use items. So states like California, Maryland, and

  • Washington, Minnesota for bags specifically,

  • Some materials require composting in an industrial

  • facility like certain cutlery and coffee cup lids, which means

  • you can't just throw it in your backyard and hope it will break

  • down. It has to be sent to a facility that monitors the

  • chemical and temperature levels of a large compost pile. The

  • materials are also sifted to make sure everything has broken

  • down properly. And if you think you're doing the environment to

  • favor buying these industrial facility compostable products,

  • and still throwing them away in the trash, you're only partly

  • correct. Landfills are usually too compressed to allow oxygen

  • and micro-organisms to break materials down. Even for things

  • like food or paper, which are usually pretty easy to break

  • down.

  • Unlike with recycling, where you have different plastic types,

  • you have different shapes, and that can help determine the

  • recyclability, and each community has different

  • requirements based on what their recycling facility can sort,

  • there's no common one common definition of what is

  • recyclable. With composability, it's different. We have these

  • international standards saying this is what is compostable

  • regardless of what plastic type you're using, regardless of

  • whether there's paper in there or not.

  • According to one report, only about 27% of the United States

  • population has access to some kind of composting program that

  • accepts either food waste only, or food waste and some form of

  • compostable packaging. So it's not a ubiquitous solution yet.

  • The real difficulty here at Zume is finding solutions to replace

  • all of those arrows. Let's get rid of those arrows so that you

  • don't have the confusion at the consumer level. You know, can I

  • or can't tie and throw your hands up and I'm just going to

  • throw it in the trash and let it go to landfill. So it's going to

  • be make it simpler, easier. I know I can just take it, compost

  • it and 90 days later, I can use it to fertilize my garden.

  • Zume developed packaging that is backyard compostable, and it

  • really makes a difference. Backyard compostable packaging

  • can break down without the use of industrial monitoring. They

  • use the microorganisms in the soil or water to break down

  • packaging. For people living in areas without composting

  • services, this gives consumers the option to discard their

  • waste in a local compost pile, or even in their backyard

  • compost piles.

  • I can tell you that we've tested our products with independent

  • labs in all of the known waste streams and we have all the

  • certifications that give you the results that you'd be looking

  • for.

  • Recently, compostable products have been on the rise. Companies

  • like Full Cycle in the US, Astu in India and Biofase in Mexico

  • have been springing up left and right. Unilever and PepsiCo

  • among others have goals to design 100% of packaging to be

  • reusable, recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable by

  • 2025.

  • That's partly a technical definition, so making it

  • technically recyclable, or compostable, but you also have

  • to be able to get it recycled or composted at scale. And you

  • know, that's what we're all working on right now is how do

  • we make that happen both technically recyclable or

  • compostable, and at scale.

  • And Zume is trying to make the compostable transition easier

  • for brands, brokers and distributors by creating

  • packaging out of materials that are local to the companies that

  • need them. For some of their packaging, the materials they

  • use come directly from nearby farms who can sell their

  • agricultural waste to Zume.

  • One of the big things I think we can do here is the revamping

  • this supply chain. So let's build a pulp mill, next to the

  • source of the agricultural waste so it doesn't get burned or it

  • doesn't get taken to a landfill, turn it into premium molded

  • fiber packaging that then is composted, so it's a place to

  • grow the next crop. It's a closed loop supply chain. And,

  • you know, something I think we've heard a lot about over the

  • past year is the supply chain.

  • The company has products available in 21 countries

  • including takeout containers, cosmetics packaging, and their

  • robotic technology when a company wants to produce

  • packaging themselves.

  • We work with some of the largest industrial companies in the

  • world, and they build factories based on our technology. At the

  • same time we work with some of the biggest brands in the world,

  • and what's All of their product problems, we help give them a

  • road beyond plastic. When we have these fully qualified

  • products and these fully qualified factories, we connect

  • the two of them together. And we give brands a path beyond

  • plastic at scale with great economics for the brands, and

  • great economics for the factory partners.

  • The sustainable packaging industry is a $274.2 billion a

  • year business. Of course, the packaging industry as a whole is

  • about $900 billion. So there's still a lot of work to be done.

  • There are some constraints when it comes to compostable

  • packaging like higher cost. 100 plastic straws can cost as low

  • as $1.53 when bought in bulk, compared to paper straws, which

  • can cost $1.67 for 100, when bought in bulk. That's an

  • increase of 9%. These plastic clamshell containers for burgers

  • and sandwiches can cost 13 cents each when purchased in bulk.

  • Their natural fiber counterparts cost 19 cents each when bought

  • in bulk, an increase of 46%.

  • Remember, packaging is a commodity and it's always a low

  • cost product. So in general, for food, or for this kind of

  • situation, your margin is very small that you can actually not

  • have a large amount of room there to have a course in the

  • packaging system.

  • Zume says it's robots are the reason it can keep costs down.

  • Previously, machines could either make very low quality

  • things quickly, some machines could make high quality things

  • very slowly, but they were so expensive that they would be

  • outrageous for a consumer market. What our technology does

  • that so revolutionary is it can make very high quality parts

  • very fast.

  • And then there's the question of performance. Compostable

  • packaging companies have come up with many ways to make their

  • products as durable as environmentally damaging

  • alternatives. But it's not always easy.

  • We're using technology to advance the state of the art in

  • molded fiber production. So we can take many, many millions of

  • tons of agricultural waste and turn it into not plastic. And we

  • can do that without compromising on performance or on price and

  • we can do it with speed that is absolutely category leading.

  • One thing Zume doesn't have control over though, is the

  • difficulty that comes with waste management, including the lack

  • of composting programs mentioned before, along with the general

  • confusion of whether something is compostable or not.

  • The problem is that the waste management system is at the

  • state level. So we have 50 states with different types of

  • goals. So we should have tried to get at least an aggregation

  • of a state or if the government can actually pass some type of

  • regulation on whatever we have goals to move the whole country

  • forward.

  • Without a fully circular economy, meaning packaging is

  • created, used and turned back into materials that can be used

  • to create more, our packaging obsession will continue to cause

  • problems.

  • There's tremendous demand for these solutions in the market

  • and with consumers. So now that the solutions exist, and the

  • demand is there, now we're getting the scale.

There was a lot of hype in 2017 around Zume.

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B1 US packaging waste recyclable pizza recycled backyard

Hyped Pizza Robot Company Is Now Tackling Our Plastic Waste Problem

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    joey joey posted on 2021/06/28
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