Entrepreneur Thomas Maier-Eschenlohr
“We revolutionize mail order business with straw and hemp”
Wine, sausages, tools: everything can be packed safely in hemp and straw. But what is more: it makes packaging environmentally friendly since it is compostable. A TUM Alumni Start-up is turning mail order business upside down.
About 18 tons of packaging waste are being produced in Germany every year. These are piles of waste from plastic, glass and wood. Every German produces on average 37 kilos of plastic waste per year. “We do something about this”, says TUM Alumni Dr. Thomas Maier-Eschenlohr, who has founded the start-up Landpack together with his wife Patricia in 2013.
Our Landbox even surpasses polystyrene in many of its properties.
Until 2013, there was not one single alternative to polystyrene worldwide – not one single non-plastic-based insulating packaging. Landpack changed that: initially the founders have developed an environmentally friendly packaging made from straw, which uses the frequently ignored natural raw material as a commodity. Their Landboxes from straw, and meanwhile also from hemp, secure the contents just like synthetic packaging, yet they are biodegradable. “All products that were previously shipped in polystyrene boxes or with shaped elements made of plastic or corrugated cardboard can now be sent safely and in an environmentally friendly way in our Landboxes. You can ship everything from chilled foodstuffs, wine and medicines, to furniture, adhesives, machine parts, plants and electronics”, the founders tell us. “The fact that our Landbox would even surpass polystyrene in many of its properties was not planned, but just luckily turned out to be that way.”
Regional Raw Materials
Since straw is a good insulator, it is perfectly suited for packaging. Landpack sources the material for its Landboxes from contracted farmers in their immediate vicinity. “The amounts of straw that go unused are unimaginable.” Maier-Escherlohr says.” We will not have to go outside of the town’s boundaries to look for suppliers of raw materials for a long time to come. Hemp cultivation, however, is strictly regulated. Despite that, we make sure that the suppliers are not far away and we maintain a close relationship to our suppliers.” Before being processed, the straw is examined microbiologically and will only be used in its best condition, in order for the Landboxes to be hygienically clean.
Landpack has received numerous start-up awards for its sustainable business concept since 2016, amongst others the Deutscher Verpackungspreis 2016 in the category “sustainability”, the Neumacher Gründerpreis 2016 of WirtschaftsWoche and the Next Economy Award 2016 in the category „nature“. It has been listed as the third best start-up in 2016 by the start-up platform Für-Gründer.de and the initiative „Deutschland – Land der Ideen“ has added it to „Ausgezeichnete Orte 2017“.
Companies like Käfer, Alnatura or Andechser Natur are now using Landpack products to pack fresh fruit, chilled cheese or frozen prawns. Customers such as MyCow.de even suggest in their newsletter how to recycle the packing components before they end up in the compost bin: as cushions for example or as targets for when grandpa practices archery with his grandchildren. But the Landboxes not only spark creativity – they also ensure that the piles of plastic waste grow a little less.
Dr. Thomas Maier-Eschenlohr
Diplom Mechanical Engineering 2007, Doctorate 2013
Thomas Maier-Eschenlohr has studied Mechanical Engineering at TUM and did a doctorate at the Department of Microtechnology and Medical Device Technology, which prepared him: „The difficulties of the Mechanical Engineering Vordiplom have sparked my ambition and put me in the right direction personally and professionally. My doctorate with professor Lüth has shaped me a lot in an entrepreneurial sense. I was able to explore a lot. He is still supporting me as a mentor, for which I am very grateful.“ Even as a student Thomas Maier-Eschenlohr dreamt of building a technology business and combining work and family. Together with his wife he is managing the company Landpack with its 15 employees in Puchheim near Munich. He frequently takes his children along to the office.