To this day, not a single large meal delivery service uses reusable packaging. Anyone who has a meal delivered always receives it in disposable packaging, which ends up in the rubbish bin after only a few minutes of use and is rarely recycled.
With the Deliveround project, the meal delivery service Deliveroo, the City of Hasselt and the environmental organization Recycling Network Benelux are working together on a circular solution for reusable packaging for delivery meals.
We conducted research into what is the most suitable reusable packaging for consumers, restaurants, delivery services and the environment. We do not only want to prove that reusable containers are a good alternativewithout loss of comfort or taste, but also to devise a smart logistical system to optimise the circulation of reusable packaging. In this way, we hope to give the sector the first impetus towards a fundamental system change towards a circular economy.
What is unique about the project is that we immediately tested a system of reusable trays in practice among the inhabitants of Hasselt, in cooperation with a number of local restaurants.
Partly due to the corona crisis, we shifted our focus during the project to compiling our results and learning lessons in a handbook on reuse for restaurant owners. We also had an LCA tool developed that gives a quick insight into whether it is worthwhile, from an environmental perspective, to switch to reusable containers.
We were able to involve five restaurants during the project (Babo's Burgers Hasselt, Le Pain Quotidien, O-Thai Hasselt and 't Borrelhuis) that successfully applied a reusable container system for their delivery meals.
Through surveys with restaurants and consumers, we collected a lot of useful information on the barriers and possible opportunities of reusable packaging. These lessons were compiled in a handbook on reuse.
We published an extensive guide, Handboek Hergebruik (Handbook of Reuse), for entrepreneurs in the catering industry who wish to switch to reusable packaging. Governments, too, can draw a lot of information from it about the challenges and opportunities within the theme of reuse.
The project provided us with many insights to develop a business case for reusable containers for delivery meals. For example, we developed several logistical models that prove the system is feasible.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
Although we did not succeed in scaling up our experiment, we learned many valuable lessons and compiled them in a handy guide. We are convinced that reusable packaging for delivery meals is both technologically and economically feasible.
To implement reusable packaging on a large scale in this sector, good cooperation between all parties involved is important. Disposable packaging takes care of everything while reusable packaging requires a lot more planning between restaurants, delivery services, packaging suppliers, etc.
It is not easy to convince restaurants to switch to reusable containers. Their attitude is often positive, but because of busy-ness (and also because of corona) only a few dare to concretely participate in a still experimental trajectory around sustainability.
In the current market conditions, even meal delivery services such as Deliveroo are primarily focused on growth and operations. Projects around reuse, although interesting from a PR perspective, customer loyalty and sustainability, are quickly approached as less of a priority.
3studies, reports, tools
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
It was not the intention to scale up this project to a permanent situation where Deliveroo would immediately switch completely to reusable containers. Partly due to the corona crisis, we had to scale down instead of up.
The most important thing is that, thanks to this project, we have gathered a lot of useful information about the opportunities and challenges of reusable packaging in the sector and that we are sharing this knowledge. In this way, we can create maximum social return. We hope to interest and motivate as many parties as possible to start working with reusable packaging.
To make reuse really big in the delivery food sector, it is important that parties invest in take-back and washing-up facilities. Government steering, for example through re-use targets or a ban on disposable packaging, can also provide an important stimulus.