Queensland-based manufacturing start-up, TomKat Global Solutions, is on a mission. A mission to disrupt the packaging industry, replacing the millions of single-use polystyrene boxes used globally every year with their reusable and recyclable KoolPak boxes.
TomKat which started on its journey in 2018, has already established itself as a company to watch. It has a growing IP portfolio, which includes three international patents (and many more going through final stages), and a proven track record. This has contributed to a strong market valuation and over subscription during its last capital raise.
Why it matters: each year consumers and businesses use billions of tonnes of plastic. Only a fraction of this is recycled, the rest ends up in landfill or worse find their way into the environment.
- To make an impact, technologies that address this problem, such as the KoolPak, need to be deployed quickly. However, if Australia wants to make a significant contribution to the solution, this will require investment in new state of the art manufacturing facilities, that facilitates reuse and recycling.
- In other words, companies need to focus on cradle-to-cradle, not cradle-to-grave. The challenge ahead is to demonstrate the cost benefits of reusable and recyclable packaging and how to capitalise on them. To achieve a truly circular economy will need the participation of the entire supply chain, not just early adopters.
By the numbers: Polystyrene has been a blessing and a curse. But in the face of a growing plastics wave, the reality that is it is problematic and expensive to recycle.
- Around a billion polystyrene boxes are used every year in the global cold chain. Boxes are used across seafood, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, medicine and research.
- Norway alone used more than 150M single-use polystyrene boxes last year. Luckily, they have defined the KoolPak invention as the “benchmark” in packing.
- When at full capacity the TomKat plant aims to produce around 2 million boxes per year. The goal is to get boxes reused a minimum of 10 times before being returned to be recycled back into new boxes. This would effectively replace 20 million single-use polystyrene boxes in the first year, with the number compounding with each new box made and reused.
The big picture: Tom & Kath, like many, are taking a proactive approach to addressing the issue and they have looked at the bigger picture and sought to address issues that have frustrated users of polystyrene packaging.
- KoolPak boxes can fold flat, making them cost-effective for logistics. The Australian invention is lightweight, leak-proof and airline approved. No single-use plastic liner bag is needed. The patented technology delivers consistent and reliable thermal performance that can be accessed via fitted NFC tags.
Opening the whole world to a transparent supply chain: There are a lot of fisheries around the world that face both cold chain logistical issues, as well as a need to prove provenance and chain of custody.
- KoolPak offers a traceability system, which includes temperature control, at a significantly lower cost compared to what is available today.
- The track and trace platform allows both producers and buyers to track the product's whereabouts, the conditions it has endured during transit and more importantly the temperature inside the box, unlike traditional boxes with no traceability.
What they're saying: A spokesperson from Cook university said this is an ‘industry-defining invention”. Both, government and private markets are supportive.
- The company to date has had three grant applications and three successes, including a coveted federal Government Accelerating Commercialisation Grant. An impressive track record.
Looking to the future: there are some companies wanting to cherry pick some of the advancements that TomKat has created. One company has asked to use TomKat’s unique thermal liner and put it in a cardboard box. But Tom points out "doing it this way would not create a system. It would result in a new single-use product. Although it would allow us to enter the market quickly, we will take the high road. It is a difficult path to follow, but we will choose it."
- Tom & Kath’s values, vision and mission remain strongly focused on producing an integrated system that delivers significant environmental outcomes.
- … when asked how the solution can be scaled Tom says, “The goal is to use the McDonald’s franchise model. Taking what we build here in Queensland and replicating it across Australia and the world. This will help lower logistics costs and get more boxes on the market”.