Friendlier is on a mission to simplify the world’s transition from single-use to reusable packaging. Founded in 2019 by two chemical engineers, Friendlier provides reusable packaging such as takeout containers, drop-off and pick-up services, washing and sanitizing, and a software platform to track consumer use, all at the low cost of purchasing Friendlier containers and becoming a Friendlier partner. Similar to a bottle return program, consumers can claim a deposit digitally upon the return of a container.
Tell us about yourself?
Founders Kayli and Jacquie founded Friendlier in their final year of Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo. Throughout their engineering program, they worked in process engineering across the supply chain. After studying in Sweden for four months in their third year, they learned about sustainable design and felt that North America was behind when it came to sustainability practices. They became determined to create a circular, sustainable packaging supply chain in North America. Their goal was to create the biggest impact possible in reducing single-use packaging waste.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
If I could go back a year or two, I would encourage myself to think bigger. As a young entrepreneur, it’s important to grow your vision beyond what you believe to be possible based on your current knowledge, experience, and resources.
What problem does your business solve?
The linear consumption model of “take-make-dispose” prevalent in our society has resulted in a concerning increase in waste generation. Single-use plastic food containers have emerged as the third largest contributor to ocean plastic pollution. Moreover, many commonly used plastics in food packaging, such as Styrofoam and black plastic, cannot be efficiently recycled in most regions. Recognizing the need for change, brands worldwide are pledging to transition away from single-use packaging within the next decade due to supply chain challenges, government-driven regulations, growing demands from governments and consumers, and the rising costs associated with waste management. However, the implementation of reuse/refill models has proven to be a significant struggle for these companies.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
After studying in Sweden for four months, Friendlier’s founders noticed a very different culture in Europe. Takeaway packaging was uncommon as most people would sit and enjoy their meals. At festivals and sports venues, it was common to see reusable beer cups and mugs available for a deposit in place of single-use packaging. While there was no system that could match the convenience and cost-effectiveness of single-use packaging, we realized that reuse truly is the most sustainable solution for packaging. This inspired us to create Friendlier, to build a system that can make reusable packaging as simple, affordable, and convenient as single-use packaging.
What is your magic sauce?
Friendlier offers a completely turnkey reusable packaging system for businesses, which includes high-quality packaging, reverse logistics and sanitation, and a digital deposit system to incentive users to return the packaging. For businesses, this means that they can purchase reusable packaging as easily as they would single-use packaging without having to change any processes or take on any extra costs. Not only does Friendlier make it extremely simple for businesses, but we also quantify their environmental impact. Our advanced data analytics platform allows them to measure and view their impact in real time.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
Friendlier is building the infrastructure and technology for reusable packaging at scale. We are currently scaling to various regions across Canada, launching in Quebec and BC later this year. In the future, our goal is to enable reusable packaging across packaging industries.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Friendlier launched in April 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was an extremely challenging time to start a business, especially in the food service industry, where businesses were struggling. However, it taught us to adapt and pivot quickly and ultimately forced us to build a more robust and versatile solution for businesses.