University of Waterloo grads engineer Friendlier packaging ‘because the planet isn’t single-use’

Jacquie Hutchings and Kayli Dale, two chemical engineering graduates with a passion for environmental sustainability, cofounded Friendlier, a packaging company that would be friendlier to our planet “because the planet isn’t single-use.”

They met at the University of Waterloo, and became inseparable through late-night study sessions, lab experiments that went wrong, and dreaming up crazy ideas to solve problems they saw in their everyday lives.

“We had done all of our co-ops in manufacturing and industry,” said Dale. “Something that always struck us during our undergrad is how much waste is generated, and it strikes you when you see it all together on a massive scale like a manufacturing plant.”

That’s when their interest in sustainability was sparked. Still, it wasn’t until they went to study in Sweden during their third year that they were exposed to a lot of really cool circular economy initiatives and sustainability practices that weren’t used in North America.”

“That’s what drove the inspiration for Friendlier,” she said. “Seeing these circular economies made so much sense from an environmental and an economic perspective and wanting to bring those practices here to North America.”

Friendlier is attempting to build the foundation for circular economies in Canada.

“When you are talking about what a circular economy is, it is using materials that would normally be considered waste and closing the loop in the supply chain to have them used again or reprocessed,” said Dale.

She noted that recycling is the most common form of a circular economy system in Canada, but it would minimize emissions and waste more if people reused items.

“That’s what Friendlier is based on,” she said. “When we reuse, we minimize waste, but we are also minimizing the raw materials you need and the manufacturing and the energy input to produce a new product each time because we can capitalize on the products we have already produced.”

Friendlier is based in Guelph, but they supply businesses from London to Ottawa.

“it’s driven by the businesses, towns, and interest,” said Dale. “If we’re in the area, we can make it happen.”

Foodservice businesses purchase containers from Friendlier, just like they would single-use packaging.

“From the business side, it’s easy,” she said. “They sign up and start purchasing containers. We do all the heavy lifting to make sure it’s being reused in the background … Through our app and platform, we incentivize their customers to return the packaging to the same location or other participating locations. It’s like the Beer Store except for another type of packaging, so customers can get a deposit back for returning their packaging through our app. Then we collect them from the businesses, wash them, sanitize them, and then put them back into the system.”

“Through our app and platform, we incentivize their customers to return the packaging.” (Contributed Photo)

Dale said it is not more expensive for businesses to make the change.

“We charge a fee per use just like if they were paying for single-use products, and our costs are very comparable to single-use containers, so it shouldn’t be an increase in cost for them at all,” she said.

Dale encourages people to suggest Friendlier packaging to their favourite businesses or look for other solutions to environmental issues.

“Reach out and get involved,” she said. “Businesses want to do what their customers want to be happy—so continuing to share that sustainability is important and just helping us get the word out there. Once businesses try it, we see a lot of success, and everyone is excited. It’s just a matter of getting the word out the door and letting people know that we exist and there is a new solution.”

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