Count how many plastic bottles are in your medicine cabinet, and think about all the previous bottles of vitamins, medications and supplements you’ve owned, thrown out or recycled over the months, years and decades. The total number is probably daunting. Multiply that by all the plastic bottles holding millions of capsules and tablets at any given moment on Earth and the amount is downright staggering.
San Diego native Jared Koett is looking to disrupt the plastic medicine bottle market with an alternative made from renewable resources – and a specialized sustainable packaging concept.
His six-year-old company, Invert, uses environmentally sensitive treated recycled kraft paper for the pill bottle and relies on water-phobic composition cork dipped in wax for the lid. After years of development, Invert has created an eco-alternative package that is protective for what it keeps inside, yet earth-digestible for when its time is up.
“Why can’t there be a system, considering all the advancements that we’ve undergone since plastic’s inception, that is sufficiently strong and protective but is also more earth digestible?” Koett said. “That’s what we set out to do. To find a system that is protective yet breaks down.”
Koett said that while the average shelf-life of a supplement is two years or less, the traditional plastic container packaging it comes in lasts up to 450 years. “No wonder the plastic waste crisis persists,” he said.
The Invert container and its lid are compostable and will biodegrade in a fraction of the time it takes plastic.
Earlier in his career. Koett made protective packaging out of recycled materials for surfboards that were being transported. He switched entrepreneurial gears in 2016, pivoting to create smaller products that have the potential to make a colossal impact.
A Viable Alternative
Invert has been making strides with supplement companies – and Koett hopes that eventually pharmaceutical companies will also come on board – with its packaging shift for capsules and tablets.
Koett’s company has just launched a collaborative product with another local supplement business – PureNSM out of Chula Vista – and is branching out to other manufacturers.
Oskar Thorvaldsson, owner and CEO of PureNSM since 1993, has always focused on making supplements without highly processed chemical additives. Invert’s bottles fit into the company’s progressive practices.
“Through the years we have always bottled into plastic,” Thorvaldsson said. “We typically go through 5,000 bottles per day and at that rate have gone through 36 million bottles so far. That’s a lot of plastic. I will sleep better once we have all our containers in compostable bottles. This is exactly why Invert is heaven-sent. We are all in with Invert containers and keen on moving forward with them.”
This past summer, Koett attended a natural product expo in Philadelphia with Thorvaldsson where he said the upcycled bottle idea was warmly received. “People were very receptive to what we were doing,” he said. “So much so that it convinced us that we are on the right path with what we’re doing.”
Koett’s solution to plastic pollution comes at a most opportune time.
In June, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 54, requiring a 25% reduction in single-use plastic packaging by 2032. Of the remaining single-use plastic in use, 65% has to be either truly recyclable or compostable.
From the manufacturing side of the business, Koett said that Invert items have a stacking capability allowing for a full inventory using a fraction of the traditional space, with nesting capabilities allowing Invert containers to fit inside of each other.
Koett said he has bootstrapped his business from the get-go but received invaluable help through San Diego Sport Innovators, which has also provided mentorship, networking opportunities and support.
Since its inception 12 years ago, SDSI has helped more than 130 businesses get a jump start, according to its Executive Director Bob Rief.
“In 2013 I went through a process with (SDSI) and then two years ago I took an accelerator program with them where they helped me with marketing, legal, finance and much more,” he said. “They’re the ones responsible for getting me where I need to be currently.”
Rief said that Koett’s accelerator plan included 100 hours of mentoring from business leaders across the region. He called Invert’s upcycling of packaging with surfboards “a sound idea” but that Koett’s pill creation “is a freakin’ huge idea.”
“It’s classic entrepreneurial thinking,” Rief said. “He’s creating something where there is a demand. It would be really nice if one of the big pharmaceutical companies or retailers stepped up. Imagine if CVS required upcycled containers for all but liquids? Sooner or later (Koett is) going to get there with this. We will support him in every way.”
FOUNDER: Jared Koett
HEADQUARTERS: Point Loma
BUSINESS: Earth digestible packaging, turnkey platform for digestible packaging
SOCIAL IMPACT: Founder Koett says, “Small changes in consumer behavior can lead to large impacts. By switching to earth-digestible packaging, consumers displace single-use plastic from the supply chain through ordinary purchases. Single-handedly, you do your part; collectively we effect change.”
NOTABLE: Precursor to this business was a surfboard packaging company that used recycled materials to create packaging that protects boards.