Sustainable Packaging with Rough Edges
10/27/2023 Sustainability New Paths Design Start-ups Article

Sustainable Packaging with Rough Edges

Time and again, products disappear in dumpsters simply because their packaging has become scuffed. Merchandise that was only created as a sample and not adopted into the supplier’s repertoire also often ends up there. Jessica Könnecke and Christian Shuster wanted to put an end to this waste and started selling through their online store “Mit Ecken und Kanten.”

Christian Shuster is now the sole managing director of the start-up company Christian Shuster is now the sole managing director of the start-up company "Mit Ecken und Kanten".

In September 2017, Jessica Könnecke asked herself how imperfect and discarded goods could be kept further in the cycle and not lost. The result of her deliberations was ultimately the establishment of an online store in which these goods are offered with appropriate discounts. “We want to take away customers’ fear of the imperfect. Who determines what is perfect?” For her, however, it was not just about selling B-goods; with her online store, she also wanted to sensitize customers to sustainability and the preservation of products. She didn’t want just a store, but a platform and to inspire and inform customers there as well. She was concerned with bringing the appreciation of products that customers used every day back to the forefront.

The Product Must Serve its Purpose

It’s an approach that Christian Shuster, who took over the company in the fall of 2022, shares. “For us, the main thing is that the product always serves its purpose. As long as it is functional, small scuffs or blemishes are not the decisive criteria.” The goods are inspected, but there are no certificates, he says. “We get the products directly from the manufacturers, there are no middlemen. The brands are identified, we offer end-to-end transparency.” Just because a material is not certified does not mean it is bad. The blemishes on the products are described in detail, and in the case of larger scuffs, customers are also provided with photos. The digital retailer focuses on clothing, other textiles, cosmetics, and accessories. The online store used to sell food as well, but Shuster dropped that offering from its lineup after he acquired the company “Food didn’t fit with our other products anymore. We don’t offer everything, but our assortment is very broad.” Meanwhile, the number of brands from sustainable and regional companies cooperating with the startup surpasses 300, the company CEO says.

Logistics Renewed

In the process, Shuster, who is now also the sole CEO, has also tweaked other elements over the past year. “One goal was further growth, but for that we needed the appropriate structures. We implemented that step by step. Our brand was not yet clearly ‘Mit Ecken und Kanten.’” This included a different organization of the warehouse. In the process, he says, contracting out to an external provider was unsuccessful. As a result, “Mit Ecken und Kanten” set up a larger warehouse, and this is now once again completely in the hands of the employees.

Return Cartons in Use

“However, it is important that these are fair products.” The classic ideas of sustainability, he says, relate to “material,” “sustainable alternative,” and “fair production and payment.” In the online store, he says, there is also a focus on shipping products. “We use mostly used cardboard boxes for shipping packaging, including from returns. These are often cardboard boxes in top condition.” He says it has been possible to save more than 17,000 cartons. Damaged boxes are shredded in-house and then used as filler. Sustainability is not just about products and sales; transportation is also environmentally friendly. “We work exclusively with DHL and use DHL Go Green. It’s important that there’s an offer at all where we can at least offset CO₂ emissions.” In addition, he says, customers can get deliveries as reliably and easily as possible, thanks in part to the postal stations that are often located nearby.