Every year, about 9 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans. A majority of this plastic is single use plastic and on average, takes about 400 years to properly disintegrate.
To put it simply, plastic is EVERYWHERE and, FOR A LONG TIME.
In 2018, Chile made a monumental move by becoming the first country on the South American continent to ban the use of plastic bags. A Chilean-based company worked quickly provide a plastic-like alternative for the consumer market...and Solubag was born.
Solubag first began working to create soluble detergent sheets and quickly realized the same dissolvable material could replace plastic bags, food packaging and even PPE. Solubag just recently entered U.S. markets and SeaBlue Collective is one of the first marketplaces to offer their products!
Solubag Co-Founder and CEO Cristian Oliveras sat down with SeaBlue Collective to give insights into the product materials and what we can envision for a more plastic-free world!
How Solubag Works
Solubag products are made using the same material used for manufacturing capsules for medication, i.e., Tylenol gel caps.
Solubag technology can be created on any machine that formally produced a plastic product. Meaning, it's adoption is affordable and creates no additional carbon footprint!
Solubag technology can replace many plastic products: PPE, plastic bags, food wrapping, bubble wrap...you name it! All of them dissolvable in water.
Solubag products dissolve in water! Depending on the product, some of the materials used in certain products like the doggie bags, are dissolvable in hot water (+85°) and others in cold. The dissolved bag water is can be used to water plants!
Watch the Interview!
In June of 2021, we joined an Instagram Live conversation with CEO of North America and Co-Founder of Solubag, Cristian Oliveras. We spoke about everything from his personal stories as a founder in Chile, to where he sees his products going as he begins to enter markets in North America!
Watch the full interview below (or read the transcript below).
Clarissa: Plastic is one of the biggest issues facing the oceans today. As a surfer, I see plastic in our oceans every time I paddle out. What Solubag has created is revolutionary and we're so excited to speak with the Co-Founder and CEO today. Cristian, would you like to introduce yourself?
Cristian: I am the Co-Founder of Solubag and now the CEO of Solubag of USA. We just started here in the USA. We created this solution as we love the oceans and rivers, we live in a country that has a lot of water. We're from the South of Chile and we have so many rivers in the Patagonia and Chile has a very big coastline. We have created a product that is similar to plastic, has the characteristics of plastic but can be dissolved. You know the jelly capsules you take with Advil? We use that material that can be created on regular machinery and can be dissolved.
Clarissa: I'm curious, when you dissolve the product in water- what is left in water? I've seen you drink the dissolved water before- how safe is it?
Cristian: Yes, the easiest way to think about it is the jelly capsule. It is a material that doesn't harm you or animals. When our non-plastic material dissolves in the water- what is left is carbon.
Clarissa: Chile is one of the first American country to ban use of plastic bags. You want to share a little bit about the origin story of Solubag?
Cristian: Yes! We [the founders] are four friends and we started by wanting to make a detergent. When we started learning more about this, we decided to change to focus more on film plastic because we understood that we could eliminate the single-use plastic products in general.
Clarissa: In terms of entering a new market, how was it entering the market in Chile? Was there a learning period for your customers to understand that your product was soluble and that it would dissolve in water?
Cristian: It was very difficult. When we started out, the costs were very high. We had to scale to minimize our production costs. We had to work really hard on the PR side to convince customers that our company could give value to the product.
Clarissa: So what we've all been waiting for.... do you have a product you can demonstrate?
Cristian: [holding product] Here we have a doggie bag that's flushable! This is amazing because, right now we're based in Miami, and dog parks are beginning to change their dog bags only hand out compostable / biodegradable doggie bags. But the problem is, many local programs don't have a composting facility. So now we are working with some cities in Miami to replace the dog park bags with our dissolvable doggie bags.
Clarissa: That is one of the biggest conversations we are currently having with our vendors at SeaBlue Collective. If you have a compostable material, how long does it actually take to compost - and if you can't compost it home, AND if there isn't a local facility to compost it properly... it's TRASH!
So before we move on, one question I have gotten a lot with the doggie bags are: it's water soluble. Is there a danger for the doggie bag to dissolve in your hand as you are picking up doggie waste?
Cristian: [Laughs] No. That's the good news of Solubag. We are capable to set up what temperature Solubag begins to dissolve. So some of our products dissolve in warm water and some in cold.
[If you watch the video, you'll see Cristian eat a bite out of one of his own Solubags]
Cristian: A question we always get is: what happens if I go out to the grocery store and I have a Solubag and it starts raining?. This is very interesting, we can change that but why? What are we using right now when we go to the grocery store? Paper. If you get stuck in the rain with paper you will also have a bag that is dissolving. We don't need bags that have more than 10 minutes of life.
Clarissa: So you're looking to enter US markets. Aside from selling your products on SeaBlue Collective what are other markets you're looking to disrupt?
Cristian: One is PPE replacing face masks with Solubag products.
Clarissa: Oh, that's SUCH a good one. If you've done a beach clean-up recently you'll see that masks are EVERYWHERE.
Cristian: It's wonderful because once you throw Solubag products away, they end up in the landfill and the water will percolate through and do the job for you [dissolve]. That is why Solubag can be disposed in a landfill, as we need water to start to dissolve the product.
Cristian: We're also going into the hospitality industry, the packaging industry, and the idea is to start in the USA is to make a golf tee! Imagine a golf tee you can leave and it will dissolve.
Clarissa: A lot of our vendors are small business owners at SeaBlue Collective and one of the most common barriers for these businesses becoming more ocean-friendly is shipping packaging. So, when can you offer packaging products to our SeaBlue Vendors [laughs].
Cristian: We started developing packaging. We started with flushable bubble wrap and potentially partnering with Amazon. We're looking to scale so we can reduce the costs for everyone. We're working to democratize this product. We know we can make products that are environmentally-friendly, but if you're delivering them in packaging that is not- you are part of the problem.
Clarissa: Final question. What are your objectives moving forward?
Cristian: One of my biggest concern is that if we don't do things collaboratively we are going to have so many problems in our future. We need collaboration of everyone to prefer products that are 100% environmentally friendly (vendors, business owners, customers). There are amazing products in the market, but they are compostable! Then we have to worry if there are composting facilities available. That's why we are so proud of the work we have done with Solubag to make our products dissolvable.