Four Menlo Park/Atherton residents — Carolyn Heller, Anne Morrissey, Branko Lukic and Steve Takayama — have just introduced a new solution to residential food recyling, the Untrash Can™ and Untrash Bag™. They’re founders of Ucan, a sustainable products company, which, they say, is the first to address composting compliance through design.
“They’re products that came out of a backyard discussion,” said Ucan CEO Anne Morrissey (right in photo with Carolyn Heller). “Carolyn and I were discussing products that need improvement or products that simply could be better, and I went into my kitchen and got my stinky food waste bin. We both knew that there had to be a better solution!
“Then we discovered the market opportunity. More than 180 U.S. cities and towns have adopted curbside composting in the past three years. But consumers still throw food in the trash. Ucan gives cities new tools for compliance — kitchen cans and bags with high design values that spur adoption through performance, ease of use and aesthetics.”
The Ucan founders include industrial designers, Branko Lukic and Steve Takayama, formerly of IDEO, who were tasked with re-imagining the kitchen compost bins supplied by cities and waste agencies. They also went back to the drawing board on compostable bags, seeking a sturdy, non-ripping material that’s plant-based and, unlike the dominant PLA designs, won’t break down with moisture.
The Untrash Can is made in the United States from a minimum of 50 percent recycled plastic, with a handle that folds away, interior bag holder and unique lid design that allows consumers to empty the contents with one hand.
“We designed the can to remove the ‘ick’ factor of food waste recycling,” said Anne. “Compliance correlates with ease of use, proximity to the sink and performance. The Untrash Can reduces smells, keeps hands clean and, unlike municipal eyesores, is something that consumers are proud to have in their kitchens.”
The Untrash Bag is made with Mirel*, a plant-based compostable material that has the durability and strength of plastic but is 100 percent compostable and certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute.
The products are available to municipal waste organizations and direct to consumers through the Ucan site. The Untrash Can is $24.99; the Untrash Bags are 3-gallon biodegradable trash bags that are sold in boxes of 18 for $5.99.
Photos by Irene Searles