Small Business Q&A: Elizabeth Fingelton from Obeo

Elizabeth Fingelton, from Obeo, is the focus of this week’s Small Business Show interview.

Small Business Q&A: Elizabeth Fingelton from Obeo

Obeo is a paper packaging product for food waste in the home and Elizabeth explains how it started.

– What is Obeo?

It is a compostable box for kitchen food waste that fits in your brown bin, so we’ve developed it to take the ‘yuck’ out of food waste recycling.

In Ireland, the average household throws away a quarter of a tonne of food waste per year and this ends up in landfill and causes serious environmental issues.

So that’s why the Government introduced the brown bin for everybody to use in their house.

The problem with that is that only a third of people use their brown bin on a regular basis because people don’t want to deal with the mess and the inconvenience of dealing with it.

So, we developed a compostable paper box which people can use in their home, it takes about three days for it to get full and so all you do is fold it closed and pop it in the brown bin. No mess, No fuss.

– I take it that this is more than your average paper as well. How did you develop that?

Yes, that was my business partner Kate Cronin’s area of expertise for the past 18 months. She did all the material sourcing for the product as well as the manufacturer, which was quite difficult.

This isn’t paper as you or I would know it, this paper is based upon wet-strength technology. So, we needed to find somewhere where we could get it manufactured and sent to us in bulk, which proved pretty difficult.

So, we know that food waste may have wet food in it, for example tea bags would be a big part of wet food waste.

That means it needs to go into the paper without soaking through and being part of the mess that we are trying to prevent. So our product is able to take those wet items without breaking. It is water-resistant as well, so people look at it and think that it’s just like a paper bag or something they get in the shops, but it’s much stronger than that.

– Is this an environmental crusade or just a gap you saw in the market?

Well, it’s both really. It came about through my business partner Kate. She was doing a masters in the National College of Art and Design and was focusing on sustainable design. It was there that she became interested in food waste and tried to figure out why the majority of people don’t use their food waste bins and what could be done about it.

She realised there was a perception about food waste and nobody wanted to really deal with it. So, she thought about solving the process of kitchen-to-bin, reducing the smell, and developing a usable product.

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