Meet the team behind Ecospire!
Olive trees are a staple of the Palestinian landscape and the olives that they produce make up a large part of the local economy. Yet, with this abundance comes waste, in the form of olive pulp, which smells terrible, attracts swarms of insects, and is typically burned in order to dispose of it. This leads to a dangerous combination of toxic pollution and reduced crop yields, hurting Palestinian’s pockets and the environment.
Lara, Waleed, and Maithaloun, the three students who make up Ecospire (formally known as Green Gold), had accepted this waste as a fact of life growing up in Palestine, just like everyone else. But one day, Maithaloun saw her father burning their olive pulp and the plumes of smoke spreading across their property and something clicked; she felt an urge to figure out how to turn this waste into something productive. The team discovered the chemical makeup of olive pulp was very similar to that of wood, and it turns out, olive pulp works wonderfully as a substitute for corrugated cardboard. With this discovery in hand, the team applied to the 2021 Hult Prize, and their entrepreneurial journeys began.
It just so happened that the demand for corrugated cardboard and sustainable packaging materials continued to skyrocket throughout the year, as people around the world were stuck at home ordering online goods. In Palestine specifically, the price of corrugated boxes rose by more than 70% over the course of the year, highlighting the urgent demand for a locally-produced product just like Ecospire’s. Their business is founded upon a circular model where their packages are used, turned back into olive pulp, and made into new packaging material all over again. This process uses less trees compared to paper-based products and local jobs are created by bringing Palestine into the packaging business for the first time.
While at the 2021 Accelerator, Ecospire secured two partnerships, the first of which was a $10,000 grant from the Maan Development Center, which promotes Palestinian community development, as well as a $360,000 Letter of Intent from the National Carton Company in Palestine. This was all before they were selected as 2021 Hult Prize Winners, and they have not slowed down since then.
The team plans on processing 800 tons of olive pulp this year by partnering with a local manufacturer, with the intention of generating enough income to begin building their own production line. This amount represents only 1% of the total olive pulp in Palestine, so there is clearly a lot of room for Ecospire to grow and we cannot wait to see where they end up.
Check out their Instagram!