At Leaf Republic they transform leaves into plates, bowls and a range of sustainable packaging. We asked them about their creative waste reducing products, where the idea came from and what their plans are for the future.
Please can you give our readers a brief introduction to Leaf Republic?
Leaf Republic develops, produces and markets innovative products and uses leaves to make packaging, pulp and paper, it aims to contribute to the development of innovative, sustainable packaging.
Leaf Republic’s team is multinational and diverse. We have people from Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, China, Germany, India and Iran working with us. The two founders of Leaf Republic are Carolin and Pedram, they complement each other well due to their different backgrounds and personalities.
What inspired Carolin and Pedram to start Leaf Republic?
The two founders, Carolin and Pedram, both have children and want to hand over an intact, green environment to their children. Pedram saw his young daughter sitting on a pile of plastic plates at a birthday party and since then he has been looking for a solution to the plastic waste problem. He discovered on a round the world trip, that leaf plates are used as dishes in Asia. Pedram had an idea to adjust the leaf plates for the European market and bring this sustainable product to Europe.
What goals are you working towards?
We set ourselves a goal of offering a solution for packaging and materials which focuses not only on design and usability, but also creates a solution that takes into consideration ecological aspects. We want to be a part of an ecological revolution by replacing plastic dishes and packaging materials made with plastics and paper with a more eco-friendly solution.
Please can you tell me about your products, where they’re made, what they’re made of, how they are made & what the benefits are?
The LEAF-products are entirely based on leaves without any glue, chemicals or additives. The production takes place near Munich in Germany in a heated pressing machine that we developed ourselves. The main environmental benefit is that we avoid the use of wood and oil. Trees need around 30 years to grow and ordinary pulp can be recycled only five to six times. Our leaves can be harvested up to three times a year and no tree needs to be cut down. Not all of our products will find their way to the compost but to dispose of a paper plate or a plastic cup in waste incineration creates more CO2 compared to the LEAF-products because they are natural, CO2-neutral products.
We can measure our present and future success if we calculate the amount of plastic packaging which is replaced by biodegradable one-way dishes and our market share in all relevant markets. Furthermore, the raw materials LEAF-products are collected and processed by local female communities in Asia – we offer fair payments for the leaves which gives those local communities the opportunity to support their families and give them a better life.
How long did it take to perfect the design?
It took around three years of research and design before the final product was introduced to the market. The design is oriented on customer needs as well as contemporary design.
Where can we buy them?
What other products are you developing?
Apart from one-way dishes and packaging, we have already started with paper and pulp production based on leaves and could successfully produce several tons of paper.
Who is using them, where are they being used and what impact are they having?
Our target group are end-consumers, caterers, restaurants, cafes and wholesalers who care about the look as well as the sustainability and origin of products and are aware of the environmental and socio-economic consequences of the Western lifestyle.
Nowadays, there are a lot of people who want to know what their food is made of and how it is packaged. Many companies have discovered this huge demand and put their focus on environmental protection and sustainability.
B2B-market: Biodegradable Packaging market, take-away chains, catering companies, direct sales strategy.
B2C-market via online platform, on private parties, barbecues and picnics.
What has been your best moment so far on your journey?
We have been working hard to develop a sustainable, green design-product with high quality standards. The best moment has been to see the LEAF-products in the hands of people and to know that we are hitting the zeitgeist and meeting the demands of people all over the world.
What have been your greatest challenges? How have you overcome them?
The greatest challenge was to create a sustainable and effective supply chain and finding ways to maintain the quality of raw materials during transportation. We conducted experiments and trialled different options before figuring out the optimal supply chain.
Sharing and discussing ideas with different stakeholders and experts helped us to think out of the box and find the best solutions for our challenges.
What’s next for Leaf Republic?
We are not solely concentrating on the area of packaging but also on pulp and paper as well in future on plastics which are based on natural fibers on the basis of our special leaves growing in Asia and South America.
We have proved already that we cannot only serve the needs of the packaging sector but also the ones of the pulp and paper industry and the area of fiber-reinforced plastics. We are in constant search of other leaves and plants which are suitable for further processing and are also water-and heat-resistant.
At the moment, we are testing other types of leaves which can be used to produce accessory items and non-food packaging. Therefore, we are sure that we can create other types of LEAF-products serving all requirements of our customers in the consumer-business. By following that strategy we will diversify our revenue areas which is important for a business to succeed.
Thank you Leaf Republic for sharing your story, I’m sure we can all take a leaf out of your book!
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Vix & Lou
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