Meet George, Co-Founder of Project Harmless

Tell us about Project Harmless in a few sentences and where the idea came from?

At Project Harmless, our mission is to develop and offer innovative solutions to address key environmental issues.

Whilst walking my dog along the shore of Loch Long in Scotland, I came across an area of washed up debris including many intact dog waste bags. I realised that all conventional dog poop bags will not break down in water for years so we created Harmless Poop Bag.

Harmless Fashion has a similar origin, the genesis of this idea came about after looking for a designer tote bag for my mother. All bags I looked at contained plastic and were made in mass overseas, normally in poor working conditions.  Harmless Fashion aims to tackle greenwashing in the industry, helps fight plastic pollution, minimises the problems of textile waste, and supports the UK textile sector. 

Can you explain how Harmless Poop Bag is made and how it works? 

We launched Harmless Poop Bag in 2021 after spotting a need for nontoxic dog waste bags. You see, many pet brands claim they’re sustainable as a sales technique but most of their products are made of harmful plastic. So we launched our innovative, water dissolvable poop bag to disrupt the industry. 

The production of Harmless Poop Bag is not straightforward compared to conventional “biodegradable” or “compostable” bags because the same material we use is FDA approved for human consumption if manufactured differently. 

We spent months to get the formula and production process right, ensuring it remains harmless, nontoxic and microplastic free, but as the material is not made to last, our innovative process ensures it looks and feels as close to a conventional bag as possible. 

As a final step, our team in Scotland checks all products to ensure it meets our standards before packaging it. 

Tell us about your business journey. What’s been the hardest and most rewarding moments?

The most challenging moments have also been the most rewarding – namely correcting consumers’ ingrained perceptions on what sustainable products look like and educating them to drive real change.

We can’t do this without the support from many ethical journalists, and supporters like Tide, who help to raise awareness of the environment and greenwashing.

World Environment and World Ocean days are celebrated on 5 and 8 June – can you tell us more about the importance of sustainability in business?

Each and every business should take responsibility for minimising their environmental impact. Unfortunately that’s not happening at present as often the planet friendly option is more costly. That’s why global production of plastics continues to increase, reaching 400 million tonnes in 2022, whilst general waste plastic in our seas and oceans are estimated to be responsible for over 100 million marine life fatalities annually. 

I believe consumers will support ethical businesses and sustainable products over competitors, however, governments can help by regulating marketing claims to reduce consumer greenwashing and misinformation.  

What’s your top tips for consumers looking to shop at genuinely sustainable brands?

Watch out for buzzwords like “compostable”, “plant-based”, “carbon natural” and “eco” as consumers often spend more money if the product is marketed with these words. These claims can sometimes be unfounded and it all comes down to who shouts louder. 

For example, a brand could claim a jacket is sustainable as it’s made of recycled material and vegan leather, but the entire jacket could still be made of harmful plastic. 

Using recycled plastic, normally from bottles, breaks the recycling cycle and is the opposite of sustainability. Such items release microplastic every time it’s washed and if discarded will take over 500 years to degrade. On top of this, many luxury fashion brands market their British heritage, but the vast majority of their products are made overseas. 

We are working with climate scientist, Laura Young, to raise awareness of greenwashing and misinformation in various industries and a series of videos will be available on the Project Harmless website and social media in the coming days. 

Is there any advice you can share with entrepreneurs who want to start a sustainable business?

Sustainable products can take much longer to get right, but once achieved can set a brand apart. There is also often camaraderie between ethical and sustainable brands as they face similar challenges and have a similar outlook, so be proactive to reach out and engage with such businesses who can help and even become potential partners. 

How did Tide help you grow your business?

Running a business is hard with the last thing I want to do is admin. Tide took many admin headaches away.
The invoicing feature is so easy to use, and it helps me to stay organised.

What’s next for Project Harmless?

We have a significant opportunity with Harmless Fashion and hope to make plastic-free fashion the mainstream rather than the exception! We’d love all fashion brands to follow our example and reject plastic in its many forms.

Initially Harmless Fashion will include a small range of limited edition fashion accessories such as tote bags and laptop cases. Each item is free of polyester, synthetic fabric, and plastic of any kind. Handmade entirely in Scotland, we will also launch a small range of unisex clothing in the coming months. 

Valentine Hutchings

Valentine Hutchings

Head of Community and small business enthusiast

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