A startup out of South Africa is helping reduce plastic pollution in a big way. Founded in 2014, Munch Bowls produces biodegradable, edible bowls that replace traditional plasticware. The company’s products are made entirely of all-natural ingredients and are a perfect supplement for many kinds of meals.

Munch Bowls can hold hot soup for up to five hours and have a shelf life of 15 months. The bowls have a wholesale price of $0.33, which is slightly more expensive than plastic alternatives. However, the startup’s products are vegan and include rooibos extract, which is a natural South African preservative that is high in antioxidants.

So far, Munch Bowls has sold to businesses and hotels in Belgium, Dubai, Singapore, and South Africa. The company focuses its advertising efforts on a few uses in particular: picnics, corporate events, and parties. Munch Bowls’ primary competitors are organizations like Biotrem and Loliware, which rely on wheat and seaweed, respectively, to produce other types of plasticware replacements. 

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How Munch Bowls Was Born

Munch Bowls’ overarching goal is to cut down on the amount of plastic waste that we produce. Founder Georgina de Kock started the company five years ago after seeing how much plastic was used at food markets to serve meals. She was shocked at the amount of packaging street vendors used to distribute food. 

“I was looking around and just noticing all the rubble that is created by us humans, and it really started irritating me,” says de Kock. “Whatever you can put on a plate, you can put in the bowl. It’s the perfect size to hold in your hand.”

Munch Bowls not only eliminates the need for plastic plates but also reduces the time it takes to clean reusable products. Incredibly, de Kock initially produced all of the company’s bowls by hand. She now has a machine that cranks out 500 sweet and savory bowls per hour, which will help the startup continue to scale in 2020.

The Problem with Plastic

We have developed a heavy dependence on plastic due to its low cost and versatility. However,  innovative waste management techniques and recycling efforts have not kept up with production.

We produce 600 billion pounds of plastic waste every year, half of which is used for one-off cases. Overall, we recycle less than 15 percent of this waste appropriately. Plastic also takes a long time to decompose. Plastic bottles, for example, take more than six times longer than batteries to break down—450 years. 

The Munch Bowls founder does not hold back any punches when it comes to sharing her opinion on plastic use for food distribution. “Plastic you can’t eat,” says de Kock. “It does not add anything but pollution.” 

To help take her business to the next level, de Kock has brought on a new business partner. In 2020, she hopes to open 6 new production lines and expand to other types of biodegradable products. Munch Bowls has its sights on coffee cups, spoons, and in-flight meal containers. On your next international flight, you may find yourself sitting in front of one of de Kock’s creations.

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