“We also want to demonstrate the power of individuals creating positive change in the world,” — Q&A with Dr Mary O’Riordan and Lisa O’Riordan of HaPPE Earth

Interviews | Fri 21 Apr | Author – Business & Finance

Irish startup HaPPE Earth provides compostable personal protective equipment to aid healthcare in reducing the amount of single-use plastics.

What inspired you to start your company?

We are Mary and Lisa, two cousins who had not seen each other since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. When we finally had the chance to catch up and discuss the prospect of life returning to “normal,” Lisa expressed concern about the environmental consequence of the widespread use of single-use plastics. Dr Mary understood the importance of PPE, but also recognised the challenge of finding a sustainable solution. 

Through our combined entrepreneurial spirit and extensive practical knowledge and understanding of the healthcare system, the idea of compostable PPE was born.

We understood that promoting the concept would be a substantial undertaking, but we were determined to champion the cause. We advocate for sustainability in healthcare, hoping to set an example for others to follow. 

We know the initiative contributes to large volumes of plastic waste being removed, but we also want to demonstrate the power of individuals creating positive change in the world.

What is your core product/service offering and what gap in the market are you trying to address?

The HaPPE apron is made from HaPPE’s Proprietary Resin, composed of an innovative family of compostable bioplastics that have been developed over the past twenty five years. The HaPPE Apron matches all the safety parameters of current LDPE single use aprons, is CE approved, has Class I medical devices Medical Device Regulation (EU) 2017/745(MDR), and with optimal composting, HaPPE aprons biodegrade in approximately eight weeks compared with up to 50 years for LDPE plastic in landfill.

It can be an additional stress for those in healthcare to source, choose and verify sustainable options, when they must provide so many other essential services.

It’s also a challenge to meet and measure scope three sustainability targets. Our long-term goal is to alleviate these challenges and become a service provider that supports delivery of Sustainable Consumables to the healthcare market.

Is there a particular sustainability related issue that your business is trying to solve?

It’s becoming clear that we are facing a crisis when it comes to plastic production and pollution. We believe all communities must come together to address this issue. HaPPE are committed to doing our part by reducing single-use plastics in the medical industry with CE-approved compostable alternatives.

The first product we have designed and created, the HaPPE Apron, is a fully approved compostable single-use apron. HaPPE Earth champions sustainability and the circular economy, and our aim is to bring together medical grade functional compostables with an SDG measurement tool, along with a compostable waste solution; anaerobic digestion.

Approximately 50 million single-use aprons are used in Ireland alone every year and we believe that when there is a viable compostable alternative to single-use LDPE plastic, we should remove the use of this plastic and replace with compostable single-use products.

What motivated you to apply to the Accelerate Green programme?

We were drawn to the concept of an initiative dedicated to sustainable companies. After researching the previous programme rollout and the participating companies, we were thrilled at the prospect of being surrounded by, and learning from, individuals who share our values. The support we have received from our cohort peers has been invaluable, and we have learned a great deal from each other, as well as from our mentors, Resolve Partners, of course!

What is the most standout thing you have learned since joining the Accelerate Green programme? 

Our mentors are skilled at dismantling our ideas and logic, challenging us to investigate each element and guiding us on how best we can incorporate new ideas or innovation into our business in a practical and effective way. Their fresh experienced perspectives can be daunting, but they are invaluable at helping HaPPE reach its full potential. The epic turnaround story of Bord Na Móna is a true inspiration, and their journey serves as a reminder that with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible.

What advice do you have for other companies looking to improve their sustainability efforts?

There are many ways to begin your company’s sustainability journey. Some important steps include the following:

Firstly, define your company’s sustainability goals and targets, and communicate them clearly to your employees, stakeholders and customers.

Secondly, conduct an audit of your company’s operations, supply chain, and product/services to identify areas where you can reduce your environmental impact. 

Implement sustainable practices throughout your operations, such as reducing energy and water consumption, switching to renewable energy sources, reducing waste and using environmentally friendly materials.

Thirdly, adopt circular economy principles, such as designing products for reuse and recycling, and using recycled materials in your products and packaging. 

Finally, collaborate with other companies in your industry and across sectors to share best practices, drive innovation in sustainability and measure and report on your progress.


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