Nespresso has announced the winner and two runner ups of its inaugural Australian StartCup Challenge, a circular innovation competition with a first prize of $50,000 funding.

Brisbane start-up, Uuvipak has taken out the top prize for its mission to eliminate single-use plastic pollution with 100% home-compostable packaging, currently in the form of cups and containers.

The StartCup challenge winner was selected via a public vote from a shortlist of three, selected by an expert panel that assessed entrants based on innovative thinking and potential for impact.

The expert panel was made of up of leaders from different sectors including Nespresso Oceania managing director, Jean-Marc Dragoli, Nespresso Australia head of marketing and sustainability, Mariah Monaghan, UNSW Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre founding director, Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Good Citizens co-founder, Nik Robinson, Glam Corner sustainability lead, Zoe Mellick, Founder Institute co-director and sustainability lead and Fishburners EIR in sustainability, Charlotte Connell, and Circonomy founder and chief evangelist, Yasmin Grigaliunas.

Uuvipak co-founders, Dr Shafali Gupta and Andy Epifani have created a new patent pending edible material made from clean, upcycled organic food waste sourced from food and drink manufacturers across Australia. The material is strong, hot water resistant for over 12 hours, and 100% biodegradable without leaving any toxic or harmful by-products in the process.

“After noticing the amount of packaging that we accumulated every day in our households, we decided to look for a better alternative to soft and hard single-use plastics,” Dr Gupta and Epifani said.

“Uuvipak was born to eradicate single-use plastic pollution by creating a circular economy: our products are made from 100% upcycled clean organic food waste, without any chemical additives, and are able to biodegrade naturally after use. When you choose Uuvipak, you create zero landfill, don’t contaminate your food with microplastics, and produce zero emissions.”

Nespresso managing director, Jean-Marc Dragoli said, “Congratulations to the Uuvipak team on a remarkable circular innovation which inspired both our jury and the public with its creativity and potential for positive impact.”

The runners up were Gaia Project and Tackle Lab’s NOGO Bin. Gaia project founder, Nadun Hennayak created the Intelligent Crop Cultivation Module (ICCM), a unique modular cultivation method that responds to plants’ natural growth cycle to significantly reduce and reuse water, while reducing energy and nutrient usage and doubling crop yield. Jaci Mata and Meg Connor founded TackleLab with the goal of diverting nappy and wipe waste from landfill. Encouraging the switch from plastic to compostable nappies, TackleLab created the NOGO Bin to allow childcare centres to compost used nappies at scale.

“I would also like to recognise our two runners up, Gaia Project and Tackle Lab’s NOGO Bin, for their impressive submissions and thank every entrant for taking part in the Australian StartCup Challenge this year. The quality and quantity of submissions leaves me without a doubt that Australia can move, powered by bright ideas and innovation, toward a shared net-zero, circular economy.”

Feature image: L-R: Judges Yas Grigaliunas, Charlotte Connell, Zoe Mellick and Nik Robinson, with Uuvipak co-founders, Dr Shafali Gupta and Andy Epifani, and Nespresso Australia managing director, Jean-Marc Dragoli.