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These robots turn waste into compostable packaging

The $274.2 billion dollar sustainable packaging market is expected to grow to $413.8 billion by 2027, and Zume – formerly a robotic pizza start-up – has re-commissioned its fleet of robots to produce packaging to compete in this growing industry.
13:19
Sat, Jun 19 20218:59 AM EDT

There was a lot of hype in 2017 around Zume. At the time, Zume was a pizza company that used robots to automate the pizza-creation process. It utilized large oven-carrying trucks to bake the pies as they traveled to customers. The idea was a hit and earned Zume a $375 million investment from SoftBank. But at the beginning of 2020, Zume laid off 360 employees, half of its workforce.

At the time, CNBC's Deirdre Bosa reported, "This is another stumble for SoftBank's Vision Fund, which invested $375 million into Zume, bestowing that unicorn status $1 billion valuation."

In a surprising turn, Zume is now dedicated to producing compostable packaging that is durable and backyard compostable, breaking down in a matter of 90 days. According to Grand View Research, the $274.2 billion sustainable packaging market is expected to grow to $413.8 billion by 2027. But that industry has been faced with challenges.

Rhodes Yepsen, Executive Director of the Biodegradable Products Institute says, "I wish I could say it was just the cost and cost is going to come down, or it's just that we need one thing. But it's really, I think, a variety of factors."

As the oceans fill up with plastic waste, and as companies make pledges to switch to greener packaging, it could be great timing for Zume.

Watch the video for a look inside Zume's robot-powered factory, and hear about some triumphs and challenges facing the compostable packaging industry.