Edinburgh venture looking to clean up world with 'eco' dog waste bags secures backing
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Set up during the pandemic by dog lover George Greer, Project Harmless has attracted funding through Start Up Loans’ delivery partner Virgin StartUp to expand its product line. Following a surge in demand from countries including Belgium and the US, the business is also poised to launch a new range of waste bags for larger breeds.
Greer came up with the business idea after noticing high concentrations of plastic waste on the northern shores of Loch Long while walking his Swiss Shepherd, Noah. The number of bags prompted Greer to dig into their environmental impact, finding that most biodegradable and compostable bags don’t actually break down for a long time in the open environment or in landfill. In search of an eco-friendly alternative, he repurposed a water-reactive, non-toxic and microplastics free material, of a type used to coat medical pills, to develop a new class of dog waste bag. His product is said to dissolve in the open environment, particularly in rivers and oceans, posing no threat to marine life and wildlife.
Greer, co-founder of Project Harmless, said: “Despite the cost of living crisis, our customer base continues to grow. In 2022, nearly ten billion dog waste bags will be used in the UK alone but unlike other products on the market, Project Harmless provides environmentally conscious pet owners with a planet-friendly way to dispose of waste. As much as 10 per cent of general waste plastic sadly ends up in our rivers and oceans worldwide, so that could amount to one billion used dog waste bags entering our waters by the end of the year, causing potential harm.
“The Start Up Loans programme has been really useful in helping to cover manufacturing costs and build up our inventory, particularly as we plan to expand into the EU next year,” he added.
The British Business Bank’s programme has already delivered more than 6,300 loans worth more than £55 million to new business owners in Scotland since 2012, including more than 770 loans for entrepreneurs in Edinburgh. Virgin StartUp offers a 12-month programme of support for every business that receives a loan.
Barry McCulloch, senior manager, UK network, Scotland at the British Business Bank, said: “The Start Up Loans programme was designed to support entrepreneurs like George with access to funding through alternative avenues, helping smaller businesses with an environmental impact to thrive. Our mission is to drive sustainable growth and prosperity across the UK, and to enable the transition to a net zero economy, by improving access to finance for smaller businesses such as Project Harmless.”
Andy Fishburn, managing director at Virgin StartUp, added: “Project Harmless is a purpose-driven business that brings a genuinely innovative solution to a growing environmental issue. We were immediately drawn to George’s business plan and we are really pleased that he has chosen Virgin StartUp to be part of his start-up journey. We are looking forward to supporting George with his plans to scale Project Harmless in 2023.”