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Piloting Tech-Enabled Returnable Packaging on Block Island

Award Information
Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
Branch: N/A
Contract: 68HERC22C0024
Agency Tracking Number: B214C-0012
Amount: $100,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: 4C
Solicitation Number: 68HERC21R0144
Solicitation Year: 2022
Award Year: 2022
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2021-12-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2022-05-31
Small Business Information
232 W Canton St #3
Boston,, MA 02116-0000
United States
DUNS: 116618389
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: Yes
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Alison Rogers
 CEO & Founder
 (410) 991-7651
Business Contact
 Jack Kutner
Title: Treasurer, Board of Directors
Phone: (508) 654-8349
Research Institution

USEFULL is a tech-enabled circular economy solution designed to eliminate single-use food/beverage products. USEFULL empowers corporations, colleges, and closed loop communities to generate less waste by directly replacing single-use, disposable containers at the beginning of the consumption cycle. We provide our proprietary technology and custom-designed inventory of vacuum insulated stainless steel to-go cups and containers to our partners. Our returnable containers, enabled with technology, create a circular system. Via the USEFULL app, users can checkout and return our products anywhere within the network. USEFULL, formerly Coffee Cup Collective, launched in Boston City Hall, Reebok Headquarters, offices, and several local cafes. During the COVID “pause” we rebranded and refocused our business strategy, focusing on empowering institutions to meet zero waste goals rather than building a retail presence. We are re-launching at Mount Holyoke College in August 2021, and estimate an offset of 36 tons of single use packaging waste annually. Our planned partnership with the Block Island Conservancy is to launch a pilot on Block Island fall/winter 2021. We have letters of intent from Novartis and Wayfair to launch in their corporate offices and have numerous colleges and corporate partners in our pipeline. We estimate the U.S. Total Addressable Market to be $49B, this includes colleges/universities, corporate offices, hospitals/institutions, cafes, and restaurants. In principle, the issues created by single-use cups and containers are being addressed through municipal recycling programs and/or the introduction of “sustainable” products - either innovative materials designed to be compostable or heavier plastic products designed to be reusable. However, 99% of all disposable plastic and mixed paper cups and containers end up in landfill, or as litter on our streets or in our oceans. In the US, this amounts to 329 million cups and 437 million containers daily. In practice, all of these “responses'' are problematic. Current recycling capabilities do not match the need, and limitations exist on the types of products that can be recycled. Single-stream recycling is convenient for residents and businesses, but the sorting is inefficient, costly and, many products (like mixed paper and many takeout containers) can’t be recycled at all. Compostables are not the answer either, as many of these products contain “forever chemicals” like PFAS and are often only compostable at industrial composters - where concerns of contamination and leaching exist. Lastly, “solving” a plastic problem with thicker, more durable, plastic seems contradictory, if not illogical.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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