Last year, Evoware was one of six winners of the $1 million Circular Design Challenge, a contest run by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation & OpenIdeo, thanks to its unique innovation, the seaweed-based food wrappings and sachets that can be dissolved and eaten. More than 600 innovators from over 60 countries participated. Previously, this Indonesian start-up has won other contests, both in Indonesia and overseas. Creating innovative solutions from seaweed to solving plastic waste issues while improving the livelihood of Indonesia’s seaweed farmers is Evoware’s mission.
The founding of Evoware stems from David Christian’s concern about plastic waste. In 2015, David returned to his hometown Jakarta after studying for four years in Canada - and he could not breathe properly upon his arrival in Jakarta due to the air pollution (the air quality of Jakarta is, surely, a far cry from Vancouver).
David found that the plastic industry, which uses chemicals and toxic materials in the production process, contributes heavily to air pollution. Moreover, plastic trash dumped into the sea certainly harms marine life as well; Indonesia, actually, is the world’s second-largest contributor to plastic waste in the ocean.
Experiencing health problems related to air pollution and witnessing the unbelievable amount of trash in Jakarta first-hand was the catalyst for David to innovate eco-friendly products that can stymie Indonesia’s dependence on plastic items.
All of Evoware’s goods are preservative-free and made from farmed seaweed free from chemicals. Seaweed itself is naturally high in fiber and vitamins. As explained by David, the nutritious seaweed is chosen as it is abundant in Indonesia, yet a large volume of seaweed production is not absorbed, while most seaweed farmers are poor due to a long marketing chain and loan sharks.
It is important for Evoware’s team that they not only have a positive impact on the environment, but also on the livelihood of seaweed farmers. “Evoware is a socially responsible enterprise, which values social and environmental responsibility. Our seaweeds that come from Makassar in Sulawesi are bought directly from the farmers’ cooperatives there, bypassing the middlemen, thus farmers can get a fair price for their goods,” says David.
Established in February 2016, Evoware’s first product on offer was edible glass called Ello Jello. Those colourful cups, which come in green tea, orange, lychee and peppermint flavours, are suitable to be used at various occasions, from picnics to weddings. Those who do not want to eat the 100% biodegradable items, can use them as natural fertilizer for plants, plus they also biodegrade in 30 days.
Evoware’s edible products have been certified Halal, declaring that those goods are fit for Muslims to eat as they are free from pork, alcohol and certain other ingredients – the Halal label is important in a country where the majority of the population is Muslim.
Moreover, Ello Jello cups, David explained, are made without gelatine that is normally obtained from cows or pigs. As Evoware’s products do not contain any gelatine nor animal derivatives, they are also suitable for true blue vegetarians.
I myself liked the taste of Ello Jello glass that has a jelly-like texture, which I bought for IDR 20,000 at Pasar Semesta bazaar; mine was actually the last one from 85 cups on offer that were sold out quickly.
Pasar Semesta is a festival, which celebrates a healthy and sustainable lifestyle and is organized by Burgreens, Project Semesta, Union Yoga and Evoware. For Evoware, it is crucial to take part in events or movements that are in line with Evoware’s mission to push sustainable production and consumption as innovation combined with action can change the world.
Even though Evoware’s cups sold out at Pasar Semesta, according to David, his products currently still seem unnecessary for Indonesians in general, as there is a lack of awareness that plastic waste is a problem that requires urgent attention; educating the public to respect the environment is not an easy task. Moreover, the current prices of Evoware goods, which are more expensive than plastic pieces, make lots of Indonesians shy away from buying those eco-friendly items.
However, David believes that they are able to reduce the price significantly once Evoware is able to produce goods in a larger quantity. Investing in large-scale machinery to increase its production capacity is in the pipeline - Evoware expects its products to go into mass production in 2018. It is a feasible plan as this brand is one of only six winners of the $1 million Circular Design Challenge 2017 thanks to its seaweed-based food wrappings and sachets that can be dissolved and eaten.
As for current prices, Ello Jello glass (10 cm) costs IDR 20,000 each. It is cheaper if you buy in larger quantities (each cup will cost IDR 11,000 only, if you order between 200 and 300 items at once, while prices will drop to IDR 9,000 per cup if you purchase more than 300 pieces at once). Smaller glasses (8,5 cm) start at IDR 18,000 each. Alternatively, you can order the powder and glass mold to make them by yourself.
Evoware has been gradually introducing new product categories. Today, it also offers odourless, tasteless eatable food wraps and edible sachets as well as biodegradable packaging – all of these seaweed-based goods, just like Ello Jello cups, are compostable and work as plant fertilizers.
The edible sachets, which are dissolved in warm water, can be used for both dry food products including coffee, seasonings in instant noodles and cereals, as well as for liquid and semisolid food products, such as sauces and seasoning oil in instant noodles – thus we can drop the sachet in our bowl of noodle and stir it, without struggling to open the sachet first. The eatable food wraps and food packaging can be used to wrap various foods, from burgers to cookies. The biodegradable packaging can be used for non-food contents, such as soap bars, toothpicks, straws and sanitary napkins, among others.
Currently, the food wrap (21cm x 21cm) costs IDR 2,400 per sheet, the coffee sachet (6cm x 6cm) is IDR 390 each and the dry seasoning sachet (5cm x 4.5cm) costs IDR 240 per sheet, while prices for soap packaging (7cm x 7cm) start at IDR 530 each. For an extra cost (about IDR 400 per sheet), Evoware will print your brand logo by using food safety tested edible ink.
Evoware gained recognition and international exposure after being featured in October 2017 in the American magazine “Fast Company”, which focuses on innovation in technology, leadership and design. Today, on the Internet, one can find articles about Evoware written in various languages, including Dutch, French, Russian, Greek and Japanese, among others.
Various brands, both Indonesian and foreign, have stated their interest in ordering Evoware’s seaweed-based packaging, even though Evoware has not moved from pilot production to full-scale manufacturing yet. If all goes well, mass production will begin this year.
For a relatively young company, only founded in 2016, Evoware has done very well for itself. What started as David’s personal initiative to reduce plastic waste has quickly evolved into a lucrative business opportunity, as there is an increase in consumer awareness of environmental issues globally.
Since its inception, Evoware has been on a mission to make the world a better place. It is, indeed, a breath of fresh air in a market saturated with plastic products.