Here’s the story of one of the Hult Prize at Rutgers 2020 teams!
Plastic pollution is an important issue because it is one that will most definitely outlive us and one that will only worsen as time goes on. Plastic wrap was originally developed by Dow Chemicals in 1949 and was first used to coat military planes and soldier boots for waterproofing. How is it that what we used to put on our feet is now being used to wrap the food that we eat? Plastic wrap usage and excessive plastic wastage have increased steadily since plastic wrap was first conceived. Last year, more than 5 million Americans used more than 10 rolls of plastic wrap. Combined, Americans use enough plastic wrap to cover the entire state of Texas. Even considering the amount of plastic wastage within America, this portrait is mirrored in countries all over the world. Each wrap takes 400 years to break down and releases toxic pollutants into our atmosphere as it breaks down. The history of plastic pollution is already irreversible, but we must now do our best to steer our future onto a greener path.
We as a global community have become increasingly vigilant of what goes into our food, so why aren’t we as careful about what goes around it?
SeaWe is a sustainable business focused on reducing plastic waste with a biodegradable plastic wrap alternative made out of seaweed.
Our name SeaWe has two components. The “Sea” comes from our utilization of the most abundant plant in the sea: seaweed. The “We” comes from our desire to unite the world in combating plastic usage. With our product, everyone can play their part in making our home greener.
We are a team of innovative and passionate students from Rutgers University-New Brunswick working to revolutionize the way we wrap our food.
SeaWe is the solution to sustainable food packaging. We have developed groundbreaking technology that can replace the non-sustainable plastic wraps and parchment papers that are currently used to wrap food. There is an abundance of seaweed in our oceans. By extracting sodium alginate from locally-sourced seaweed and combining it with calcium lactate, a salt commonly used for calcium deficiencies, SeaWe has developed a plastic wrap alternative made completely from nature. Unlike plastic wrap, our wrap will completely decompose within 4 to 6 weeks and will not emit toxins into the environment but rather fertilize the soil around it.
We love our food — we spend hours with it preparing, we spend fortunes on it attaining, and it shows its love by keeping us going. Realizing this intimate relationship, we have improved food quality, taste, and, within the past decade, become environmentally conscious of production. Yet we continue to wrap our beloved food in materials that destroy the environment when disposed of and cause irreversible diseases due to toxic chemicals. Our company envisions a world in which we wrap our food in a material that comes from nature itself and is sustainable. We see a wrapping material that is so natural that when we dispose of it, it not only decomposes but serves as fertilizer for restoring ecosystems and reversing the damage. Unlike plastic, the SeaWe wrap made with sodium alginate will be completely biodegradable within four to six weeks.
Who We Are
We are student entrepreneurs from Rutgers University who are dedicated to sustainable packaging and solving the global pollution crisis. We first met in an innovation-centered program and were instantly united by our shared desire to do something about the worsening state of our environment.
Our idea was conceived during a meeting for a program that we are all apart of at Rutgers called Road to Silicon V/Alley, which serves as an innovation hub and network for student entrepreneurs to connect with entrepreneurs from Silicon Alley in New York all the way to Silicon Valley in California. SeaWe is the first place winner of Hult Prize at Rutgers and placed in the Top 6 out of 79 international teams at Hult Prize Regionals Toronto.
Ashley is studying Computer Science and Economics. She is passionate about combating climate change and has been building from the ground up the supply chain and logistics of SeaWe.
Rachelle is studying Statistics and Computer Science. She is invested in sustainable living and has been the passionate point of communication for SeaWe’s sustainability efforts and focuses on SeaWe’s sustainable go-to-market strategies.
Shivank is studying Business Analytics and Computer Science. He has been the main driving force behind the physical creation of SeaWe wrap prototype and working in our labs to develop our procedure.
David is studying Finance and Business Analytics. He believes in using numbers to ensure the success of SeaWe’s goals. He has developed SeaWe’s financial projections and plans for commercialization.
Sharon is studying Marketing. She is passionate about pushing the message and story behind SeaWe to push our product to commercialization.
How We Did It
We could not have gotten here alone. Our idea to create a biodegradable plastic wrap alternative made from seaweed required extensive research. By reaching out to professors in a variety of departments at Rutgers, we were able to really start developing all aspects of our business, from coming up with our actual prototype to building the framework of our business. Luckily, many experts from within the Rutgers community, and even some people beyond the Rutgers reach, were able to speak with us and even work with us extensively to see our dreams turn into more of a reality every day. With the generous support of Rutgers Business School, various Rutgers professors, and other external experts in various fields, SeaWe now has a working prototype and continues to iterate to eventually work towards commercialization. We have developed a team of experts who believe in our company to advise us on our journey and are thankful for all of their help. Beyond our advisory board, we have also consulted with various experts to gain insight on various specific aspects of our plans.
We still have a long way to go as a business but I will always be amazed at how far we’ve come since the conception of SeaWe just a few short months ago. It’s incredible that as five freshmen can just go to an organization’s meeting, come up with an idea for a sustainable business (completely outside the range of any of our studies), and have that idea actually start coming to life within a couple of months. We were developing our prototype in the labs, speaking to world-renowned experts, and even practicing our pitch during Rutgers Business School classes’ lectures — all while being full-time students and participating in other endeavors. Not only were we living the student entrepreneur’s dream on-campus, but we were also simultaneously planning our trips to Toronto and Cancun as part of the Hult Prize competition, all funded by Rutgers.
This was my first taste of entrepreneurship and if I’m being honest, the first time I ever actually took any interest in starting my own company. Hult Prize has taught me so much and given me not only these incredible experiences but also the connections and ability to proceed with this business endeavor or anything else I want to pursue in the future.