Williamston-based tForm is looking to make the goal of sustainable packaging a reality.
The company started when CEO Ben Moore joined the Founder’s Institute, an accelerator in Greenville, where the idea of tForm solidified. The company opened its doors in December 2015.
tForm has about 20 employees, scientists and sustainability experts. Moore says the company originally had 6,000 square feet for production. After five years, they now use up to 20,000 square feet. tForm works with low- to mid-volume, custom packaging. They’ve also added automation into the process with software that does machine learning.
“We wanted to focus on sustainable solutions without compromising on the unboxing experience,” says Moore.
He says billions of feet of plastic packaging materials are produced yearly but they don’t get recycled. Recycling plants aren’t equipped to handle the material so it ends up in landfills or in lakes and rivers.
The company introduced a new product that addresses the recycling challenge last year, BubblePaper.
BubblePaper looks exactly as the name indicates: It looks like bubble wrap but made out of mostly recycled paper.
“That’s one of the reasons that we focused on BubblePaper as a stable method that tries to cut into basically all of that plastic that’s hitting landfills,” Moore explains. “We’re trying to become a more sustainable solution for everything that’s plastic.”
But there’s another application: keeping things cool.
When used in layers, BubblePaper outperforms plastic foam coolers like Styrofoam ones, according to Moore. Because of that, they have a contract to produce enough material to keep 10,000 plastic foam coolers out of production. In fact, the company is replacing a lot of cold chain packaging with recyclable materials.
“If it doesn’t get recycled curbside, our solution is still biodegradable 100%, so there’s no plastic, it can actually degrade,” he says.
While BubblePaper doesn’t pop quite the same as other materials, it doesn’t harm the environment like them, either.
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t have quite the same pop. And then we jokingly say, like, ‘You’re not killing sea turtles,’” Moore says with a laugh.
Though Moore says the company can’t discuss current partnerships, he says tForms’ customers can be found throughout the continental U.S. The company has several international customers including in the U.K. and Germany. Their customers range from companies shipping T-shirts to CBD oil.