Korean Startups using recycled material to create innovative products are on the rise. South Korea has been ranked the second highest country when it comes to having a circular economy. Circular economies minimize waste and make the most of resources. This is in large part to the Ministry of Environment which enacted the Basic Law on the Resource Circulation which includes systems for resource recycling, recycling performance management, and setting waste disposal fees. Still, nearly 50% of yearly produced plastics are for single-use. While plastics may be the first material that comes to mind when we think of recycling, many other substances can be recycled and even upcycled.

With the rise of climate change awareness, several entrepreneurs in Korea are focusing their energies on harnessing the power of recycling and upcycling. To get a glimpse of new ways startups in Korea are using recycled materials we’ve provided a few below that have a variety of approaches, goods, and technologies that are making an impact and appealing to customers. Together, these Korean startups using recycled material are reducing waste, lowering carbon emissions, and keeping more waste out of the ocean.

Korean Startups Using Recycled Material



Environmental startup Innerbottle offers sustainable eco-friendly packaging solutions. They use specially formulated silicone, which can be completely incinerated and recycled into silicone oil. The outer packaging can be reused again and again. Innerbottle is one of the environmental startups in Korea that is getting a lot of attention from the beauty industry. Therefore, as more beauty brands look to go green, Innerbottle will continue to get a lot of attention.

They recently partnered with LG Chem to turn plastic materials into cosmetic containers. In addition, the used Innerbottle containers are collected through a dedicated logistics system. Then they are returned to LG Chem which recycles them as raw materials for new production. Therefore, plastic resources can be quickly and completely recycled. Innerbottle has been receiving inquiries from global luxury cosmetics brands for their eco-friendly package solution.



KEIL is South Korea’s largest supplier of edible insects for food, cosmetics, and animal feed. They focus primarily on mealworms. The farm then processes them into powder or oil. They produce over 1,000 tons of mealworms per year. Furthermore, its waste can be used as fertilizer. These insects offer high nutritional value and are a good source of protein, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. It is great for the environment because it consumes fewer resources, is easier to cultivate, and causes less environmental damage compared to meat. The current food consumption pattern dependent on meat and fish is not sustainable. It did over $1 million in sales in 2021 but aims to have over $15 million in sales by 2024. 


Environmental Startups in KoreaSocial Impact/Sustainability startup Rewind aims to reduce the production of plastic use for takeout cups and straws. In Korea, an average person uses over 500 takeout coffee cups per year. Of these 500 over 450 are not fully recycled. Therefore Rewind focuses on biodegradable products that are made out of straw, corn, and sugar cane. These products only take 6 months to naturally decompose. Therefore cafes and restaurants in Korea now will have an eco-friendly alternative. Rewind will target cafes, restaurants, hotels, and markets in Korea to turn them “Green”.


MontsenuFashion social impact startup Montsenu is a fashion brand that uses PET bottles to produce clothes and accessories. People around the world produce millions of tons of plastic waste every year. This creates a massive problem for the environment, especially for animals in the ocean. Therefore Montsenu’s mission is to reduce plastic waste by converting PET bottles into fashion items. In addition, Montsenu has recycled over 1,000 kg of 500ml plastic bottles. Therefore, they aim to be the leader of a sustainable lifestyle for women and men not just in Korea but in Asia.



Gugugaga is an eco-friendly clothing brand for babies. Their products are made from 100% sustainable materials from Korea. They do not use any chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Therefore, their fabrics are hypoallergenic and 100% organic. They offer a parenting box that comes with free shipping. In addition, 6 types of parenting boxes range from smart configurations to premium configurations. Even their packaging is eco-friendly!



STARSTECH focuses on solving the marine ecosystem problem caused by starfish. It is estimated that Starfish cause up to $335 million in yearly damage. Their main product is called ECO-ST, it is considered one of the world’s best eco-friendly deicers (preventing or removing ice) and the first to use a patented technology, using extracts from starfish to enhance the melting performance and significantly reducing the risk to the environment, structures, and other properties. These deicers created by STARSTECH have almost zero corrosion effect on cars, minimal damage, and great ice-melting performance. By using starfish extract, STARSTECH can create environmentally friendly products.



PLEATSMAMA is an eco-friendly fashion startup that uses recycled polyester fabric to create fashion bags. The brand gained a large number of young consumers in Korea who care about climate change and plastic pollution. Their top product is the Knit Pleats Bag but they offer a variety of bags on their site. They aim to produce fashion items that can be fashionable, practical, and sustainable at the same time. It takes 16 PET bottles to create one shoulder bag. All the bags from PLEATSMAMA are made with high-quality knit techniques which leave no discarded fabric after bag production.


Harlie K

HARLIE K develops and produces vegan eco-friendly upcycle products. They embrace natural gradients and degradation towards a premium product. They also collaborate with unique and innovative designers and use various materials such as leather scraps and burlap coffee bags just to name a few. HARLIE K aims to become the leading upcycling brand and spark change in the Korean fashion industry.

All materials used by HARLIE K are collected via donations and are used leaving as little waste as possible. They use a process of mix-matching and reformation. The components are then designated according to the sewing process diagram and are then connected. HARLIE K also produces belts, buttons, and other accessories.



RE:Harvest is Korea’s first food upcycling startup. They specialize in producing a flour alternative that is made from the byproducts of barley that have been used to make beer and sikhye (a Korean traditional rice drink). When the grain arrives at their factory, it is cleaned, dehydrated, dried, and milled, before moving on to the final stage of inspection. It is then turned into a fine powder called “RE:nergy flour. The flour can be used to make flour or granola. By using 1kg of their flour, 11kg of carbon reduction and water reduction is possible.


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