Generally, we don’t think of recycling unless one really wants to act a responsible job. No matter even if it’s as small as a coffee cup recycling activity. It does sound challenging, but you won’t know unless you start it.
These are the crucial steps Flavia Guardia took to start a coffee cup recycling business in Australia.
Let’s dive into her story of the business.
Previous Life Of Flavia
My name is Flavia Jimena Guardia, I lived in Argentina Bs. As, for 36 years, and decided to travel to Melbourne, Australia, to learn English. I am a Fashion/Graphic designer who graduated from the University of Bs. As FADU/UBA.
I started to work in the fashion industry by myself when I was 25 years old, first as a freelance graphic designer, producing a range of products for other brands to become an independent supplier for kids’ accessories working with first brands. Always focus on production and material researcher lover.
What made you think of this business?
I went to help a friend that cleaned offices in the city (CBD Melbourne); I noticed that we needed to change more than 50 bins with a new bag just because someone dropped only one coffee cup with some liquid in each container. So I thought it was so sad. I never saw so much unnecessary waste in a day. I must do something with all this material for free. Still developing this idea, my designer blood wanted to fix a problem, not other simple products. Finally understood that my opinion was to show that it is possible to design sustainably and be responsible for what we put on the market.
How challenging was it to take the first step?
The big challenge was up the level of my English (which is my second language). It didn’t only feel insecure about putting your product on the market and selling and surviving from this. It was about explaining and changing customers’ behavior in some way.
The challenge was to explain in the best way something new to the market in another language with 3 minutes for a short speech. I was also researching a new market being born in Australia and generating a product. I started studying the circular economy in 2016 in my first Expo waste; I couldn’t understand who the customer was.
My closest friends here in Melbourne and in Buenos Aires, Argentina, all-time burning and testing my ideas with them and asking to save cups for me here; My Mentors and my Partner, trying to understand me with my very poor English and getting so upset or frustrated.
The older adults (my customers) at the markets feel more than emotional with my idea, and always they bought my first primary products for their grandkids. Also, they connected me with my biggest supporters today, “community gardens,” working together in the collection of cups.
How many hours did you spend each day on your business?
In the beginning, All the time that could take from my ex-work (full time), like breaks, lunch, traveling in the tramp and 2 hours at night every day; weekends constantly researching, doing the writing, collecting coffee cups, doing the prototypes.
When I decided to leave my work, I divided my time for the season; Spring-summer markets and production. Autumn-Winter: researching new ideas, studying courses, and developing financial/social strategy for my business (doing external freelance work to survive).
Last year from September to May, we produced from Wednesday to Friday full time every week and traveled to markets with my Partner all weekends, so Monday/Tuesday was our weekend because (remember)It is “essential to stop and have fun” in all this.
Strategies you applied
First: Market research: I did all the markets that I could in the regional area and the city of Melbourne and some for S.A (last summer total markets 47). I contacted all the entrepreneur’s groups and noticeboards to learn, look for markets, and got involved in the community to understand how they work.
The markets (craft and farmers) are the best places to test products, get noticed, generate references, and find your target market ideal before investing money.
Second: offer my service (we need a jump in quantities), so I started to send emails to businesses or shopping, any place where I can leave a collection station for cups, doing wholesale (this refers came from markets). We certificate as Australian made product.
The third part of the plan is to introduce this material to develop products for other brands.
What made it successful?
That ” this is not about us, is about our planet”, so people start to get on board. We are the only brand that works seriously with coffee cups. We separate paper from plastic liners. With the paper, we make compostable products for growing vigorous plants to make better soil and produce clean oxygen for the planet #wemakerubbishdisappear.
The lids and liners (plastic) will be recycled for future collection stations. We also teach people how important it is to do the proper separation to help solve waste. I consider it is a shame that the market abuse greenwashing and confuse people about what is or is not recycled, biodegradable or compostable.
Microplastic is the next issue, so when we recycle, we need to consider how to reuse this material and what we will mix, creating a new product. Will we put more plastic with this? Will this material be going to the water/ to the land/ to our bodies?
How much capital is required to start a coffee cup recycling business in Australia?
Not much for the first six months. My first inversion was $1230 and finding time for the business all as you can.
What equipment or types of machinery are required for the overall process? Would you list some?
In the beginning, some moulds, a blender machine, and a shredded paper; after industrial machines second hand. Now we are redesigning all machines to make our own pulping and shredder plastic separation machine. Sometimes, we use a dehydrator machine—all with solar panels and reusing rainwater.
How did you launch the business? Process Explained
[Coverage: Company Name, Domain, Business Account, Insurance, Legalities, and more]
*I chose a name, and I checked that anyone has this name and Google to see if they don’t have any lousy association.
*I bought a domain ecoenvircoconcepts.com; I’m a master in Wix, but it is one of the most accessible and complete platforms because it includes the shop to sell your products and give you invoices. Works with Stripe to process your payments to your business account in one step. Any problem, they provide you with support and videos to learn. I created my website and learned all the SEO tools; I’ve permanently changed things and refreshed the web with new material once a year.
*I opened a business account in…..
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What would you say to those who are environment lovers and would like to start a similar business?
Go for it! There is a big necessity to offer sustainable products; be consequent with your Mission and Vision and do not design products that use plastic or generate rubbish. Educate your customers and suppliers. It will push them to incorporate and offer plastic-free options materials for your products and the market.
And Finally, ask yourself these basic questions: what problem do I want to fix? Will we use clean energy? Will we produce more waste? Is it organic? Is it biodegradable, compostable, upcycle, or recycled?.
#wemakerbbishdiappear #compostableproducts #germinationcubes #ethicalgifts #recylecoffeecups #circulareconomy