While walking on the beach in Cape Cod, Ken Spencer of Charlotte got distracted and frustrated trying to enjoy the beautiful setting. The litter he saw really bothered him.
He started picking it up. And not just once. Picking up litter on his walks became a habit.
But he was still frustrated, Spencer said.
“I was unsatisfied with how I was carrying the litter,” he said.
He didn’t like taking a plastic bag and having to carry the bags back, so he got an idea about picking up litter without having to carry bags. He started looking for a backpack.
He tried an Adirondack pack basket, essentially a wicker backpack, but he found that messy litter would stain the wicker basket.
Eventually, he hit upon the idea for Planet Pack. He found a couple of people to make a few prototypes for him.
Someone local read about what Spencer was trying to invent and put him in touch with Drew Patterson, who owns a business called Sourcetech in Virginia.
“What he does is he manages things for people who have ideas,” said Spencer. “He has engineers, contacts and different shipping processes worked out.”
And there’s a factory close to the port of Norfolk, Va. for shipping around the world.
Kicking it off with Kickstarter campaign
Now, Spencer has a way to manufacture his Planet Packs and distribute them to buyers and he’s looking for investors. To that end, he’s started a Kickstarter campaign at www.kickstarter.com/projects/planetpack/planet-pack?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=planet%20pack
The campaign to raise $30,000 runs through Nov. 30, and so far, it’s looking good. He’s raised almost half of his goal. However, if his Kickstarter doesn’t reach its goal, he won’t get anything.
If he does reach his goal, he’ll still need about $70,000 to build the first 1,000 Planet Packs, but for the rest he’ll recruit investors.
The Kickstarter is sort of a market test. If it succeeds “then I would feel more confident that the Planet Pack is a market fit and it would give me the confidence to either invest or talk to people who might invest,” Spencer said.
He has worked through several iterations of the Planet Pack. He wanted it to be waterproof, strong, light and with a molded back barrier to protect the wearer from anything sharp that they might pick up.
“I wanted to get the right shape and right material,” Spencer said. “It weighs 2 pounds and it’s incredibly light and strong. You barely know you’re wearing it.”
Eyes opened by litter
“I don’t think of myself picking up litter anymore,” Spencer said. “I’m just snagging litter as I walk, so I don’t have to be frustrated any more looking away from litter.”
He is “litterly” a preacher for picking up trash.
“The thing I like about picking up litter is it changes you,” he said. He believes that when you open your eyes to litter, you open your eyes to the world. And he’s definitely an advocate for less plastic.
“I couldn’t go into a store and buy a plastic water bottle any more than I would drink out of a sewer,” he said.
Spencer looks to share his invention and his passion for the battle against litter by getting kids involved. He said he will offer a free Planet Pack to every school in the country that requests one. His plan is that the teacher can sign it out to different students.
“And we’ll challenge them so that every time they collect 80 bags of garbage, they get another free pack,” Spencer said.
When individuals buy a pack, they can choose a school or nonprofit from the Planet Packs list of supporters and his organization will donate $5 to that organization.
“Our business projection is that over 5 years we would donate over $1 million and give away 15,000 packs to schools,” said Spencer.