“It was fortuitous timing,” says Gropper. “We’re often ahead of the market trends, which can make it hard to get traction. So this was just timing in our favor.”
Gropper, along with co-founder Corey Scholibo and founding partners Jordan Silverman and Brian Chung, runs Repurpose, a company that makes compostable tableware made exclusively from plant materials. Unlike plastic options, the offerings from Repurpose can be composted in an industrial-strength composter in about six months. If not composted, they’ll eventually break down in a landfill to just carbon dioxide and water. No toxins will leak into the ground and groundwater and no harmful materials are released during the decomposition process.
Gropper, an architect by education, spent the early years of her career as a green consultant for sustainable design projects. Through that work, she eventually started acting as a sustainability consultant on film and TV shows in L.A., including "Entourage" and programs for the Travel Channel and HGTV. It’s on those sets that she realized how much plastic use occurred on a daily basis and that the problem was getting worse, not better. In 2009, she met Brian Chung — who would later become a founding partner of Repurpose — and learned that he had a family member in Taiwan who was already creating materials out of plant-based products. “I thought, ‘Why isn’t the world switching to this material? Why are we taking petroleum out of the earth to create a disposable product?’” says Gropper. “It didn’t make any sense to me.”
Inspired by that technology, Gropper and her team formed Repurpose in 2010. Their first products, insulated coffee cups and lids, were introduced in 2011 and intended to be an alternative to a paper coffee cup for consumers who take their coffee on the road while commuting. According to Gropper, Repurpose operates based on a simple concept. “We take a look at products on the market,” she says, “and try to create a better solution that’s compostable.”
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