In our little studio in Hobart, our bees are always busy creating our beeswax wraps.
We do create a high-quality product, and you will usually see the stylised finished product! However, in true transparency, there are many areas where our zero-waste products can be improved – much of that lies within what goes on behind the scenes, in our production process.
As Sustomi grows (and we create more and more jobs for locals – yay!), our goals and objectives stay the same – to go zero-waste in style. More and more people are getting on the zero-waste train which is so exciting (go you, if you are too!), and we most certainly want to continue to aim for zero-waste as a business.
A huge challenge for us as manufacturers, however, is keeping waste to a minimum while ramping up production.
In our manufacturing – and, we imagine, in a lot of other manufacturing settings around the world -, a lot of waste can be created despite best efforts to prevent it. Waste usually comes from several areas for us a small manufacturer:
- When preparing the wax mixture, there can often be a little leftover residue in our melting equipment
- When cutting, it is possible to have small leftover bits of fabric
- During the waxing process, sometimes it doesn’t go as well as initially planned, which can lead to poor wax coverage, such as uneven wax, blobs of thick wax and very thick wax
- During the packaging process, occasionally packaging can get damaged
- Whenever we start work with new suppliers, their waste aspirations may not match with ours, and consequently we can end up with surplus packaging materials
- We receive other packaging from online deliveries
- We often end up with used paper, damaged packaging, and plastic packaging from deliveries (which does all get recycled)
Even though waste might be minimal in some of these areas, we are always striving to improve our processes. We have set a goal of being a leader in zero-waste production and to achieve a fully zero-waste business. It sounds huge, but that is our goal.
What will this look like? We want our rubbish bins to be empty (without the need to ever put out the bin for collection) and we want to aim for our products and packaging to not contribute to our customers waste.
To be able for us to succeed, our challenge is to keep identifying what waste is being created and improve on our processes to minimise/eliminate waste and below-standard products.
We are already making process in 2018 with some big impact decisions and new processes that we have implemented. Here are some of our main areas of improvement towards our zero-waste goals:
- The size of our wraps are based on the width of the fabric so there are no left overs (other than the raw fabric edge)
- We carefully monitor our batch sizes to make sure no wax is heated twice and remains at a safe temperature. Overheating beeswax deems it not up to Sustomi standards as it may lose its amazing beeswax food storage/antimicrobial properties
- We carefully design equipment that doesn’t create any drips, spillage or waste wax mixture
- Any ‘seconds’ created are cut down into sample sizes when there is a good patch of the wrap
These processes are already making big changes towards our zero-waste plan of action for Sustomi.
So, what happens to our ‘seconds’?
It’s important for us to acknowledge that there’ll always be imperfections when we make handmade! We want our wraps to be as perfect as they can be when a customer receives them, so if something is a little less than picture-perfect, it often gets add to a ‘second’ pile, which we often offer at a discounted price. The wrap is still fully usable, it just comes with a few unique blemishes!
To be classed as a second, the wrap usually ticks a few boxes that deem it fit for the pile.
Firstly, a wrap potentially may have an uneven wax covering; this means it is too thick or thin in certain areas, with blobs of wax or cracks. It may also be too thick or thin across the entire wrap. We’re very proud of our fabric printing, too; if there are any imperfections in fabric printing or marks on the wrap, these will also become a second.
For any that are not deemed usable, we don’t just chuck them; zero-waste is about using everything, after all! There are a few ways we repurpose our off-cuts and unusable waxed materials. We regularly donate wax seconds to children who work within art and creative community or school projects; it’s great to know the beeswax is going to such a great cause, with our materials inspiring some of the futures creatives! We also use seconds as fire-lighters; beeswax burns beautifully, and our staff and community members regularly take home salvage to use for this purpose.
We’re always striving to create a perfect product. What are your experiences with zero-waste production? Are you struggling with the same challenges? Would you like to be the recipient of our off-cut donations? We’d love to hear from you! Get in contact with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shop our seconds sale! Available for 1 week only. All wraps are deemed usable!