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Die Gründerin Jennifer Wolf mit Seifenmühle und Rohmaterial

How a soap startup is ridding the oceans of plastic waste

On January 16, 2020, the Hamburg-based startup meerkorn (www.meerkorn.de) launched its crowdfunding campaign on www.kickstarter.com to launch a travel soap mill made from old fishing nets to protect the oceans and their inhabitants. Founder Jennifer Wolf kindly answered a few questions about her startup and also addressed her travel preferences. But first, some information about your product:

Similar to the principle of a standard salt or pepper shaker, fine soap flakes can be ground in a small hand mill, the so-called “soap grinder”, which foam up as soon as they are brought into contact with water.

The main focus is first of all on old and discarded fishing nets. Wolf explains why, “Many disused nets are simply thrown into the sea today so that they no longer have to be disposed of on land. This is because these nets are simply worthless ballast for fishermen. Once landed in the sea, millions of marine animals die in these fishing nets over the next few centuries. We want to change that and give value to the nets by buying them from the fisheries with the help of partners, thus encouraging the fishing industry to keep the nets and bring them back to shore. A discarded net that does not even end up in the sea does not have to be laboriously searched for and recovered again.” Once recovered, the fishing nets are cleaned, processed into plastic granules and can be reused to make them into a new shape, for example into the shape of a soap mill.


Wolf now hopes to give her company the decisive and proverbial kickstart with the crowdfunding campaign, with which the Meerkorn team will go online on the Internet platform www.kickstarter.com January 16, in order to be able to finance the expensive injection mold for the Soap Grinder. The founder is counting heavily on the success of the campaign: “We have big plans, but we can only go into series production for the product if our campaign is successful.

Meerkorn Travel Soap
Image: Meerkorn Travel Soap

“Travelling with a natural soap, i.e. a hard soap block, not only saves a lot of weight in your luggage, but is also the only way to carry shampoo and shower gel with the equivalent of one litre of liquid soap in your hand luggage. This means that for every traveler who is always traveling with hand luggage, the question of how to survive his next trip with 100ml shower gel and shampoo never arises again without buying new bottles everywhere that then consistently leave new plastic waste behind every time.

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The Meerkorn soaps can be used for the body and even for the hair. This makes the company one of the innovators of the scene. One soap block corresponds almost exactly to one liter of liquid soap. Wolf promises: “You can easily be on the road for one to two months. If a soap is used up, it can simply be replaced by a new soap. Since the same mill is always used, new plastic waste is not created every time. This saves 20-30 shower gel and shampoo bottles per capita per year! In addition, we have taken meticulous care to create a perfect natural product – a soap that consists of 100% biodegradable, natural ingredients and can therefore be used anywhere in nature without hesitation without endangering the flora and fauna in one, river, lake or waterfall.”

The founder, Jennifer Wolf, is an enthusiastic backpacker herself and has already traveled to most continents of our world. Now 29 years old, she currently lives in Hamburg and is looking forward to making the future a bit more sustainable and saving the oceans from plastic and thus also us from microplastic in food. At the start of the crowdfunding campaign, she answered our questions:

Interview with Jennifer Wolf

How did you come up with the idea that you could produce a hand mill for soap from old fishing nets?
As is so often the case, the idea came from several directions. On the one hand, during discussions with a local partner who already has experience with the processing of this special raw material. On the other hand, I myself worked for a while at Bracenet, also a young company from Hamburg, which produces jewelry and accessories using fishing nets salvaged from the sea. The basic idea, however, was above all not to create a product that is itself or could become part of a problem. I have found out for myself how important it is to stand behind the product yourself and to be convinced that you are making a positive difference. Not only for daily motivation, but also for inner satisfaction.

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In addition to the ecological aspect, what are the practical advantages for the traveller compared to conventional soap?
Our soap grinder is designed to combine the advantages of liquid soap and hard soap. The original idea came to me when my shampoo leaked in my backpack during a trip. So for my next trip I get hard soap, at a time when many switched to hard soap for daily use at home. For most people, the health aspect of hard soap plays a decisive role here. Above all, natural soap without microplastics and other additives is better for the skin and nature. For me, however, the lower weight in my luggage was a positive surprise. After a while, however, such a bar of soap becomes very mushy, unhygienic and simply unsightly to use, regardless of the container. The advantage of our soap grinder is that the soap flakes dissolve quickly due to the large surface area and the soap block itself remains hygienic. And of course, with a meerkorn soap mill you no longer have any hand luggage restrictions.

Does your soap come in different scents?
Yes, we have designed three different soaps for our grinder. From energizing and refreshing to sensitive and soothing. All soaps are fully ecologically degradable and free of palm oil, microplastics and packed with natural ingredients. I myself have very sensitive skin and sometimes suffer from neurodermatitis, which is why I attach particular importance to skin compatibility. The exact ingredients can also be viewed on our website.

You like to be a backpacker yourself. What is your favourite destination so far and where do you want to go next?
In my travels, I’m always looking for “real” moments, as I call them. You can experience memorable, magical moments in so many places. In terms of nature and its powers, Iceland is at the top of my list for me, but in Vietnam I was most surprised by the openness of the people. Since I lived there for some time, I would like to travel back to the People’s Republic of China soon and see how my former home has developed.