Working Towards a More Sustainable Future: Rekava

Nowadays, more and more businesses choose not only to become environmentally friendly but also established because the world continues to work towards a more sustainable and resilient future.

Cleantech, short for "clean technology," has the potential to create significant economic, social, and environmental benefits. By transitioning to cleaner forms of energy and reducing pollution, we can improve public health, reduce the negative impacts of climate change, and create new jobs in emerging industries.

Many governments, businesses, and investors recognise the importance of cleantech and investing in research, development, and deployment of clean technologies.

Today’s story is dedicated to Rekava – a sustainable Ukrainian brand of environmentally friendly products made from recycled coffee grounds. Here are some insights from one of the brand co-founders, Yuriy Tustanowski.

Category: Cleantech 

Year & place of establishment: 2020 Kyiv – Sumy, Ukraine

Founders:  Yuriy Tustanovskyi, Dmytro Bidyuk

Number of employees: 5

Current location: Lviv, Ukraine

1. How and when did you develop the idea for your brand? 

The brand's founders are Ph. D. in Economics Yurii Tustanovskyi and Ph. D. in Engineering Sciences Dmytro Bidyuk. We both have long been interested in the circular economy, responsible production and consumption, so after getting acquainted, we started working on implementing some of our ideas into life. Also, being coffee connoisseurs, rekava (recycling + coffee) was created at the intersection of our interests. The main developments are biodegradable disposable "rekava cups", "rekava pots" for seedlings, and decorative aromatic "rekava candles".

2. Where did you get raw materials for your products?

Coffee grounds are handed over to us by eco-conscious businesses. These are both offices and coffee shops. To do this, together, we establish the proper collection and storage of grounds. We buy the rest of the natural components.

3. How are you doing now (how has the war affected your business)? 

Before the beginning of the full-scale war, the pilot production of rekava was located in the city of Sumy. The brand has been operating in Lviv since April 2022.

Being here, we created and launched sales of a new product – rekava candles. These are innovative candles in containers of recycled coffee grounds, soy wax of the highest quality, aromatic oils, and premium dyes. Instead of the metal holder for the wicks that candle manufacturers usually use, rekava uses its own development – a fire-resistant bioceramic made from the eggshell. Also unique is that after the candle has burned out, you can dispose of the container by sorting it into organic fractions, composting, or using it as a biodegradable pot for plants.

The first collection of candles we dedicated to the symbolic aromas of Ukrainian cities and regions:

"Kyiv" – lilac and scented chestnut candle

"Lviv" – coffee-scented candle

"Donetsk" – roses-scented candle

"Kherson" – juicy watermelon-scented candle

"Karpaty" – herbs and honey-scented candle

"Crimea" – grapes-scented candle

"Luhansk" – apricots scented candle

"Odessa" – white acacia-scented candle

"Sumy" – linden and sugar-scented candle

4. How has the company grown since the very first day?

Rekava has been developing for about three years, two of which we were, and still are, a classic startup in disposable, biodegradable tableware. From the summer of 2022, rekava is also a micro business producing decorative aroma candles.

5. Tell us about your experience at the CES* conference in Las Vegas. How did the public react?

*CES is an annual trade show organized by the Consumer Technology Association in Las Vegas, USA, one of the most influential tech events in the world.

It was a great honor for us to win the selection among startups and brands that were going to represent Ukraine. We took our rekava cups and rekava candles to Las Vegas. Furthermore, we received publicity: leading foreign media wrote about us. Not only that, but we also expanded our business contacts and started negotiations with potential partners and investors. Retail sales of our rekava candles also increased.

6. What challenges you the most? 

To create something new. And when it is also a real innovation, then it is generally a super tricky and, at the same time, fascinating task. Therefore, I look at usual processes, products, components or components as a creative tasks in all my activities. Thus, in the rekava project, coffee grounds are a raw material for us and not garbage, as it is for most. We use design thinking to create unique items at the turnup upcycling studio project. After all, it's not only about business; I also follow such approaches daily.

7. Your vision and big mission?

As part of rekava, we create environmentally friendly products that are an alternative to the usual, eco-friendly ones. Why, for example, are almost all decorative aroma candles poured into glass, concrete, plastic, or wooden containers? Why not add creativity and responsible manufacturing to create something safe for the environment? As a result, millions of tons of non-recyclable waste are in landfills. That is why, for example, we developed rekava candles in containers made of recycled coffee grounds.

I would like more and more people to work on their education and skills throughout their lives, as this will lead to the development of critical thinking and will directly affect the improvement of the level and living conditions of the entire society.

8. Please describe to us your perfect customer. 

Of course, depending on the product or service you sell, the target audience also changes. But to generalize, the ideal client is primarily a combination of two characteristics of a person: good taste and awareness of the importance of responsible consumption. Our perfect customer analyzes the product. They pay attention to the product's functionality, design and how and out of what was created. Environmental friendliness, how the product will affect them, their children, and the environment during and after its use is also crucial to them.

9. What are your most significant insights from entrepreneurship? 

Before starting my own business, I worked as an employee for 15 years, so I can tell you from my experience that when people go from being an employee to owning their own businesses, it is essential to realize that the difference is striking. Entrepreneurship has a relatively low level of stability, especially if it is a micro or small business. But at the same time, it gives much more freedom in life. For someone, it will be an exciting adventure; for someone, it will be excessive stress.

And one more thing, if you suddenly have such an illusion. Even if Forbes or BBC wrote about you – you still need to work a lot :)

10. And now, how are YOU doing?

It has been better, but the main thing is that we are one day closer to victory and justice.

Stay tuned for more stories about innovative Ukrainian brands and spend with Ukraine.

You may also like