Mike Smith is not your everyday run-of-the-mill startup founder, he’s a force of nature on a mission to destroy single-use plastic forever!
The founder of the innovative company Zero Co is currently raising money and trying to raise the profile of Zero Co to take it to the masses and eliminate single-use plastics for good.
We chatted with Mike about his team’s mission, his inspirations, and what the future of plastic looks like (or won’t look like!).
We hope you enjoy the chat with Mike & please feel free to leave a comment below.
Tell us a little about Zero Co and its ethos?
We are on an audacious mission to rid the world of single-use plastic and clean up the junk in our oceans.
We make single-use plastic free home-cleaning and personal-care products (think body wash, laundry liquid etc), that are palm oil free, vegan, grey water safe and made from plant-based formulas here in Australia. We deliver our products carbon negative, with refill pouches that customers empty into our Forever Bottles – made from ocean, beach and landfill (OBL) waste collected from clean ups which we fund around Australia!
Once the pouches are emptied, customers send them back to us in a complimentary replied paid satchel so we can clean, refill and reuse them over and over. It’s like the milkman re-imagined – a zero-waste, closed loop system to better the planet!
Why is plastic such a big issue for the company?
The single-use plastic problem is on a global scale. It’s an issue for everyone and we want future generations to have a planet as beautiful as the one we grew up with.
The average Aussie uses 3,358 single-use plastic bottles (of the 10 products we make) in their lifetime. That’s 85,158,880,000 bottles across all Aussies alive today. 85 BILLION. We want Aussies to help us make that zero.
Why do people need to think more about their own plastic use?
The Federal government’s 2019 Waste Report revealed that 85% of the single-use plastic we put into recycling bins, actually end up in landfill. That’s crazy right? We don’t have the recycling facilities in place to manage the nation’s over consumption of plastics.
At Zero Co, we always reinforce that “there is no away”. Once your recycled goods are picked up, they don’t magically decompose or recycle in a happy fairyland. So we know that the first step is to stop buying single-use plastics in the first place.
Where do you hope to see Zero Co in 12 months? Any lofty goals?
We’ve got some really exciting plans in the pipeline for the next year at Zero Co. We’re working on expanding our line of products, starting with the launch of our new body-care range. We’re in the midst of getting into production the world’s first single-use plastic free shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and body lotion! The body box is available to pre-order now and we can’t wait to start delivering these to doors in early 2022.
We’ve also just announced an equity crowdsource funding campaign where we’re giving customers (and all Australians) the opportunity to invest in Zero Co and help us tackle the global plastic problem at a larger scale. We are hoping to raise $4M to support this next, exciting chapter and enter the international market in 2022.
What are some books or documentaries on the oceans that our community should read/watch?
What other ethical brands inspire what you do?
Ben and Jerry’s for their amazing commitment to social change. Patagonia for their incredible innovations in sustainable products. And our local favourite, Seabin, for bringing to life a simple idea that could genuinely help save our planet.
What other ethical individuals inspire what you do?
I’m a massive fanboy of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. For me he’s the guy that set the standard for what a “for-purpose” company should look, sound and feel like. His autobiography “Let My People Go Surfing” is required reading for everyone who joins the Zero Co family. Yvon and Patagonia’s combination of product excellence and uncompromising focus on their mission is super inspirational and something we at Zero Co aspire to.
When all is said and done, what is the impact you hope to have had on the world?
I’d like to leave the world a better place than I found it. To me that means finding a scalable and profitable solution to the single-use plastic problem and inspiring as many people as possible to join us on our audacious journey to zero.
If you could give one piece of advice to the next generation what would it be?
Less Talk, More Rock. The world is full of people who talk about what they’re “gonna do”. The world is full of people who talk a big game but then never take the first step towards action. The planet faces incredible challenges and we need to inspire the next generation to set fear and trepidation aside, to rise to this moment and put their hearts and minds to work solving these problems. The next generation is our future and if the planet is to not just survive, but thrive, then we need people from all walks of life to come up with brilliant, daring solutions. We need people willing to dream and willing to fail while daring greatly.
Who should we interview next?
Pete Ceglinski from Seabin Project.
Mike, it’s hard not to be inspired by your mission, enthusiasm, and drive to solve this ginormous plastic problem both here in Australia and abroad! We have no doubt you are going to do it with this fantastic range of vegan-friendly products! Congratulations on the campaign and launch and we cant wait to see this product everywhere!
We hope you enjoyed this 10 Quick Questions with Zero Co founder Mike Smith, to see more of the Zero Co range be sure to follow them HERE to be part of the journey!
And to hear from more inspiring founders and change-makers just like Mike, you can visit our Interviews page here for more!