A startup in Philadelphia makes it easy to buy locally and stay sustainable too

Note: This article is a paid posting and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Billy Penn on WHYY.


In a world where you can choose from dozens of services to deliver a bag of snacks 15 minutes after your brain decides your stomach needs to be filled, The Rounds is a breath of fresh air.

Designed as a local, sustainable alternative to Amazon by Wharton students Alexander Torrey and Byungwoo Ko, this delivery company was inspired by the classic “milkman” model. The Rounds supplies bulk supplies in refillable containers that are later collected for reuse. The company’s mission is to provide all the convenience of ordering household items for delivery, while eliminating all packaging waste.

The Rounds may not be able to curb cravings at 2am in record time, but it can ensure you’re never disappointed again if you ever reach for an empty coffee can, the last TP roll, or the last diaper.

Members of The Rounds can build their custom delivery bundle from a selection of over 100 products – think of the basic daily essentials you should always have on hand, but often forget to go to the store.

Things such as household products such as toilet paper, washing capsules and cleaning products; personal care products such as hand soap, toothpaste and facial cleanser; or bulk stock staples from soy milk to nuts, pasta, rice, oats and olive oil. There are even pet supplies and baby products.

In addition to sustainable everyday staples, you can add local favorites to your order such as Bean2Bean Coffee, OT Foods Peanut Chocolate Chip Granola Bites, and Merzbacher’s Philly Muffins. And the list keeps growing: You can now get loaves of bread from Lost Bread Co., bagels from Philly Bagels, and oat milk lattes from La Colombe.

Even better ones – and unlike many delivery services – prices are not marked. It’s actually the opposite: products cost on average 30% less than the retail value in the city, thanks to The Rounds’ bulk sourcing. The whole idea is to make sustainable living easy and affordable for everyone.

How does it work in practice? On their fleet of e-bikes, “Rounders” will ride weekly through every neighborhood in Philly, delivering curated orders to you and your neighbors.

You can adjust the frequency and quantity of each item in your bundle to suit your lifestyle and household. Choose weekly, biweekly, monthly, bimonthly and from several size options.

When your bundle is delivered, Rounders will also collect any empty containers from previous deliveries. The containers are then cleaned, refilled and recirculated for new deliveries.

One of the best side effects: Neighborhoods can see a real reduction in waste. Members of The Rounds are estimated to eliminate an average of 50 lbs. of the parcel waste from their homes per year.

Since launching with service in Center City, The Rounds has expanded to surrounding neighborhoods. It is available to residents from Fairmount to Fishtown, Graduate Hospital to Queen Village, and various West Philadelphia zip codes. And Northwest is now in the picture, with a recent expansion of the delivery service to Manayunk, Roxborough, Chestnut Hill and Germantown.

Outside of Philadelphia, the fast-growing startup has expanded into DC and Miami, and is gearing up for continued rapid growth in 2022, with new markets planned throughout the year.

Would you like to try a waste-free delivery? Membership costs $6 per month for weekly deliveries and container pick-ups. There are no order minimums or delivery costs. You can also skip a refill or pause your service without penalty by sending a simple text message.

Plus, there’s a free trial deal for Billy Penn readers: Get your first month of supplies free plus $25 for your first order.

To claim this offer, get started here and enter the code BILLYPENN. Creating your account is free and your credit card will not be charged until your first delivery has been completed.

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