OAKLAND -- Ecologic, which makes sustainable packaging for food and other household items, celebrates a major milestone next week: the official opening of its 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in the Central Valley city of Manteca.
Since its founding in 2008, Oakland-based Ecologic has made a name for itself by disrupting the packaging market. Americans generate enormous amounts of trash -- milk cartons, juice boxes, yogurt containers, bottled water, laundry detergent, clamshell containers -- and most of it is not recycled. The average American generates 4.4 pounds of waste per day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Ecologic, a private, venture-backed startup, makes "packaging the Earth can live with." The compostable outer shells of Ecologic's containers are made of recycled cardboard and old newspapers, while the inner pouches use plastic -- but as much as 70 percent less than a typical package.
Its first big product launch was a bottle for Seventh Generation laundry detergent, which is available in 7,000 stores nationwide. Now Safeway is using Ecologic's packaging for its Bright Green detergent line, which it sells in more than 1,100 stores nationwide.
Teena Massingill, director of corporate public affairs for Safeway, said Ecologic's technology supports Safeway's drive toward zero-waste business practices.
"Ecologic is a great fit for our brand and a way to differentiate Bright Green," she said.
Finding a manufacturing facility that could handle food-grade containers wasn't easy. But Manteca turned out to be ideal for many reasons. Several companies, including Safeway, have distribution centers nearby, and the Central Valley city is close to the trucking and transit corridor of Interstate 5. There's also a supply of workers who have experience in manufacturing. Ecologic has hired roughly 30 people to work in the Manteca plant; several of them used to work for suppliers to the former NUMMI plant in Fremont.
"We made the decision that we wanted to stay in California," CEO Julie Corbett said in an interview. "We have to make manufacturing work in a high-cost, high-regulatory environment. If we can do it in California, we can do it anywhere."
Corbett, who lives in Oakland, says it is about 50 minutes door-to-door to the Manteca facility. Andrew Falcon, a veteran of Mitsubishi and the plastics industry, has joined Ecologic as chief operating officer and will oversee manufacturing in Manteca.
"This is a major endeavor for us -- building a factory," Corbett said. "But this can really be done. It's not just a concept."
Corbett says consumers in the United States as well as abroad are ready for sustainable packaging. When given the choice between "plastic or paper" at the grocery store, a growing number of shoppers choose paper. Cities across the country are banning plastic bags. And even vineyards are searching for alternatives to wine bottles.
"We're working on a sleek wine bottle," Corbett said.
Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706. Follow her at Twitter.com/danahull.