Innovative Fife village shop teams up with Scottish startup to tackle plastic crisis

Project Harmless Co-Founder George Greer and a shopkeeper at a community owned shop in a fife village

The Dunshalt Community Shop & Cafe is the first community shop in Scotland to partner with Project Harmless to tackle dog waste bag pollution.

Fife’s first community owned shop, the Dunshalt Community Shop & Cafe, was opened in 2020 after raising over £30,000 from 225 people in a village of 300 residents. The shop is committed to putting all profits towards community projects.

Glenn Sharpe, Volunteer Finance Coordinator of the Dunshalt Community Shop said, “Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, and we want to improve our environment in any way possible. From the outset, we have been encouraging our customers to bring their own shopping bags & reusable cups, avoiding stocking harmful unsustainable products & packaging, and of course, sourcing locale Fife & Scottish goods, as much as possible.”

Glenn added, “There was one thing in the store we were not particularly proud of - dog waste bags. They are essential for many of us as it’s required by law to clean up after our dogs. But the vast majority of dog waste bags won’t break down for decades whilst harming our planet.”

Glenn explained, “10% of general plastic waste ends up in our oceans one way or another, killing over 100 million marine animals every year. And we will use nearly 10 billion dog waste bags in the UK this year alone. This is not a small issue and as a community, we wanted to do something locally about it and to inspire others to do the same.”

Glenn Sharpe, Volunteer Finance Coordinator of the Dunshalt Community Shop

That’s when Glenn stumbled upon Project Harmless, an Edinburgh startup that has a solution.

The co-founders, George Greer and Ka Ho Wong, came up with the idea to repurpose medical grade, water-reactive, and non-toxic material for dog waste bags. The idea originated after a walk on the northern shore of Loch Long when they came across an area of washed-up debris, including many intact used dog waste bags.

They spent 12 months on product development and launched their innovative solution last year.

Project Harmless’ dissolvable dog waste bags can quickly disintegrate in landfill and our oceans, posing no harm to marine life as they are also non-toxic and micro plastic free.

The eco startup was described by Richard Branson as a business which ‘really stood out’ after meeting with the duo this year.

George Greer, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Project Harmless, said, “Our production cost is several times higher than dog waste bags made of conventional degradable, biodegradable, compostable, or recycled materials. In fact our material is safe for human consumption if manufactured differently. We designed it to be durable enough for walks in light rain by making it much thicker than conventional bags.”

George added, “Running a purpose-driven business is not easy. Many pet shops aren't interested in stocking our bags as it offers the lowest profit margin in the category, but they said the companies willing to greenwash would sell better. That’s why we decided to build our own website and sell directly to consumers. It's fundamental that we don’t spend much on advertising and web development so consumers can purchase it at the lowest price possible. The support from the Dunshalt Community Shop who place ethics before profits means the world to us because we rely on word of mouth and community partnerships to grow.”

George Greer and Tara Isado, Shop Assistant of The Dunshalt Community Shop inside the shop

The Dunshalt Community Shop also facilitated an introduction to nearby Loch Leven’s Larder which also decided to become a stockist.

Project Harmless plans to reinvest all revenue this year to prepare for the launch of cat waste bags next month, based on increasing demands.

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George Greer, Co-Founder of Projecrt Harmless
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