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The Rounds pairs sustainability & convenience to get household basics to your door, waste-free
Philly

The Rounds pairs sustainability & convenience to get household basics to your door, waste-free

The Philly-based zero-waste startup also announced a DC launch today.

Alexander Torrey thinks the Amazon experience really “sucks” from a consumer perspective.

If you need 20,000 options or a super-niche product, the online behemoth likely has your exact option with specifications. However, too many choices can cause consumers to face decision fatigue or even unhappiness. “People aren’t looking for better hand soap, you’re looking for a better way to get (the soap from the store) to your hands,” explained Torrey.

There’s another obvious problem with the Amazons of the world: the amount of packaging waste.

Approximately 165 billion packages are shipped in the US (costing us one billion trees) each year, according to Fast Company. When the UPS truck comes more frequently than the city bus, our online delivery system also clogs streets and causes traffic hazards in bustling downtowns.

After living car-free in high-rise apartments for years, Torrey received a box the size of his kitchen table containing a single bottle of hand soap. When he considered how many of his peers were receiving everyday basics shipped to their door, he realized how quickly these packages add up.

Conventional wisdom says that sustainability and convenience are exclusive. But Torrey, Co-founder and CEO of The Rounds, wanted to create a better system to deliver sustainable staples without the waste.

Torrey became “obsessed”. “How can you make a closed loop supply chain that is truly zero waste scalable?”

Along with co-founder Byungwoo Ko, Torrey launched The Rounds in Philadelphia in 2019. (Torrey declared the city as the “perfect” test market). Torrey and Ko met while attending The Wharton School of Business and have an intriguing combined resume including Shark Tank, Uber, and even the CIA.

How the Rounds works

The Rounds offers zero-waste household and personal care basics delivered to your door. After filling out a profile and building a bundle, customers receive free weekly delivery and personalized refill amounts for a fee of $6/month.

The Rounds then fills orders at their “NRC” or Neighborhood Refillment Center, a nano-space where they can store products, process and fulfill the orders. Orders are delivered via bike, reducing carbon emissions (and precious bike lane space that UPS, Fed Ex and Amazon trucks increasingly hog).

The Rounds Philadelphia zero waste
Photo: Harry Paris

Exhausted keeping track of your household goods? The Rounds ‘manages’ the inventory of your home essentials, predicting when you’ll need a refill based on your individual household’s usage. The products are refilled in reusable containers, with no packaging waste or annoying plastic cushions.

Similar to Trader Joe’s, the products are white-label, curated and branded by the Rounds. The Rounds vets products based on sustainable certifications, ingredients and brand leaders to pick product offerings.

Rather than getting a 24-pack of toilet paper delivered, The Rounds focuses on more frequent refills of your basics – saving you valuable pantry space as well.

In addition to sustainable products, The Rounds focuses on hyper-local options, like coffee, muffins and more. Their first hyperlocal Philly vendor is Bean2Bean, which was then able to offer reusable packaging through The Rounds.

On average, customers of The Rounds can reduce their waste by 40 to 50 pounds per year. As The Rounds increase their product offerings, Torrey estimates that the number can grow to 100 pounds a year.

This week: The Rounds debuts in DC

“It’s now a time for a different model.”

Alexander Torrey, CEO & Co-Founder, The Rounds

For Torrey, the disruption to our current delivery obsession is necessary. “(A new model) can celebrate and champion hyper-local vendors and brands and businesses. The current mega-corporate model makes it really hard for a local coffee roaster to work with Amazon.”

Amazon has been around for years, but takes a toll on local businesses and environment.

“I believe we will look back in 20 years and say, ‘do you remember when we all got 10 boxes delivered to our door every day? When there was like three UPS trucks that would come by your house or your apartment every day?’ We’re going to look back and be like, Ooh, that was awkward.

What’s next for this zero waste startup? The Rounds officially launches in Washington DC today.

Use code greenphilly for $25 off your first order with The Rounds.

Photos by Harry Paris Field.

Broke in Philly
Broke in Philly is a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push toward economic justice. Green Philly is one of more than 20 news organizations in the collective. Follow us on Twitter @BrokeInPhilly.


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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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