By Amanda Bryan
An eco-packaging startup wants to improve the sustainability of online fashion with a water-soluble apparel bag that turns into plant food.
Australian company Hero Packaging has developed the new Aquahero inner garment bag which looks and functions just like its plastic counterpart but can be dissolved in boiling water at home in 30 seconds with no microplastics produced.
The bag is an alternative to the single-use plastic garment bags that currently protect clothing, underwear, swimwear and soft homewares within a mailer bag or box. The product is timely as single-use plastics continue to be banned in more and more states and territories the world over.
The Aquahero bag has been designed so that the adhesive strip can be sealed and re-sealed so product inspections can be done, and the material is transparent which means barcodes can be scanned from outside the bag.
The Aquahero bag is also made from non-toxic and marine safe material and once dissolved can be poured on plants or in the garden, according to its creators, husband and wife team Vikram Davé and Anaita Sarkar, who have also developed a home-compostable packaging range under the Hero Packaging banner.
This range includes a compostable mailer Heropack, a padded mailer Herobubble, as well as compostable sticky tape and other mailing accessories.
The founders were originally looking for more sustainable solutions for their own e-commerce business. When they couldn’t find one, they decided to create their own.
After testing numerous materials, the founders selected a material that was compostable, water proof, durable and acted like plastic in the shipping process, but would break down in a compostable environment.
“We visited our manufacturer to talk to them about our plans and we walked away feeling excited,” they said.
“We knew we found our ideal solution, but wanted to know if any other businesses would be interested. We posted about it on social media and (whoa!) the response was phenomenal.
“So, we put our business hats back on and developed mailers in the sizes and colours that you see today.”
Aquahero is an extension of that strategy. The company realised many retailers were still using plastic packaging inside their external Hero Packaging products, such as when customers ordered more than one product, with plastic packaging used to separate different items to avoid damage from price tags.
“Our core vision has always been about being zero-waste and completely plastic free in our supply chains and retail distribution,” Sarkar said.
“Through innovative technology and sheer persistence, we’ve proven to the world it is possible and business savvy to make the switch from plastic and our latest product is proof of this.”
Hero Packaging estimates that to date its products have saved around 20,000,000 plastic mailers from entering the planet’s waste streams.
Aquahero is manufactured in Malaysia, its water-based inks are made in Germany, and it complies with international and Australian certification standards. The bags come in two different sizes and are strong enough to be reused if needed, according to Hero Packaging.
Hero Packaging was founded in 2018 and has grown from a two-person operation to a much larger business servicing big names in e-commerce including fashion label Cue, online retailers like Beginning Boutique and Birdsnest, and some of the global distribution giants.
The company recently achieved a funding target of $1.5 million AUD with crowdfunding platform Equitise which will be used to scale up its North American operations.
“We feel very lucky to be able to make a business out of our passion,” Davé said. “The sustainability industry is a very exciting place to be in right now and we love doing our bit to make the world a better place.
“Plastic-free doesn’t have to cost businesses and change doesn’t have to be a huge commitment. If we all resolve to making one small but positive switch, we can collectively change the world.”
Aquahero is made from Polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH), a synthetic polymer that is both colourless, odourless, hot water-soluble, safe and sustainable. The bags are manufactured in Malaysia and their water-based inks are made in Germany. The PVOH material is marine-safe and the water-based ink is also non-toxic. The shelf life of bags is 9-12 months and they must be stored in a cool and dry location. Once a customer receives this garment bag, they should cut off any adhesive, boil some water and mix in the bag until it dissolves. This water can be poured on plants or down the sink. The company’s compostable product range is made in China from renewable ingredients including corn starch. They can be chopped up and placed into the home compost bin and they break down with no toxic residue in under 120 days.