By Andrea Louise Thomas Photos Supplied
Portsea couple Julia and Jordy Kay are eco-entrepreneurs. Their goal is to eliminate petroleum-based plastics. They are producing Great Wrap; Australia’s first fully compostable cling wrap made from potato waste. And they are making it right here on the Mornington Peninsula at their solar powered factory in Tyabb. They both left distinguished careers to embark on a new venture to create a product that could make a positive difference in the world.
Julia is an architect from Western Australia. She has a masters degree in architecture from the University of Western Australia and also spent a year studying architecture in Milan, Italy. She worked for Cox Architecture in Perth and transferred to Melbourne four years ago. On construction sites she discovered that all of the building materials delivered came on pallets wrapped in plastic; even the bricks and timber. This led to an incredible amount of plastic waste. It stuck with her.
Jordy is a winemaker from Mount Martha. He left school at fifteen to work in the vineyards of the Mornington Peninsula. At seventeen he went to Europe to become a winemaker. Back home, he set up his own label, Jordy Kay, in the Otway Ranges making natural organic wines. He completed a bachelor’s degree at Melbourne Polytechnic in Viticulture and Winemaking. He later moved to Seymour, taking on a 50-year-old vineyard and reinvented it. He was also appalled by the amount of plastic waste involved in his industry.
Julia and Jordy met at a pub in Fitzroy two and a half years ago and realised right away that they were on the same wavelength. They both wondered if they were doing work that was really making an impact. They wanted to do something that would make the world a better place. Sitting on a beach on Phillip Island, they had a conversation about plastic waste and how to tackle the problem.
It was there and then that the concept for Great Wrap was launched.
The scale of the problem with plastic wrap is huge. “150,000 tonnes of cling wrap and pallet wrap goes into landfill in Australia every year. A major supermarket uses 500,000 km. of cling wrap in a year. All that wrap goes into landfill and it takes a thousand years to break down,” Julia says. Even biodegradable wrap is made of petroleum plastic. It has an organic element added that makes it biodegrade quicker, but it still breaks down into microplastics which go into the environment and never disappear.
Great Wrap, by contrast, is a totally compostable product that breaks down into carbon and water within 180 days. It takes less time to break down than an orange peel. Great Wrap serves the same purpose as plastic cling wrap, but has no environmental impact. If all plastic wrap was replaced with this fully compostable product, it could actually change the world. It would eliminate one source of plastic waste. It’s a great beginning.
To start, Julia and Jordy worked out the product they wanted to make. Once that was decided, they reverse engineered it. It took a lot of time and research to figure out the formula and to source the base ingredients. They have been importing their potato base from Idaho in the United States.
It’s the waste product from potato chip manufacturing.
Their aim now is to find a similar high starch, high glucose base sourced in Australia which will most likely come from the fruit juice and wine producing industries. They are working with Monash University as research partners to localize the processing solution.
Great Wrap is currently producing about 900 rolls of cling wrap per day, but their goal is to produce three million kilometres of wrap by the end of this year. The business is expanding by leaps and bounds. Soon they will be the biggest cling wrap manufacturers in the Southern Hemisphere. “Our goal is to put an end to petroleum-based plastic being manufactured,” Julia says.
It’s not just cling wrap for home use and pallets that Julia and Jordy are looking at producing. They want to cover as many industries’ needs as possible. They are now looking into producing silage wrap. That’s the plastic that hay bales are wrapped in. Many farmers just burn the wrap after use which is bad for the environment. Compostable wrap is the perfect solution.
Next Julia and Jordy want to move into making the punnets that fruits and vegetables come in. Silage wrap and punnets are their goal for 2022. There is no reason to believe that the plastics industry can’t be totally revolutionised. Harmful plastics can be replaced by compostable products. If anyone can do that, it’s Julia and Jordy Kay.