How more user-friendly take-out containers can help reduce plastic waste

Posted 13 hours ago

Proposed by Scotiabank

Originally posted on Scotiabank Media Center

Travel can be rich in learning opportunities. Traveling, studying and living in Sweden changed the lives of two University of Waterloo chemical engineering students.

Jacquie Hutchings and Kayli Dale learned first-hand about the benefits of a circular economy, a model that aims to reduce or eliminate waste by reusing and repairing materials for as long as possible, then recycling end-of-life materials.

“Wherever we had lunch in Sweden it always seemed like real china, people sat down, socialized, then just returned their dishes,” Hutchings said. “At music festivals we got mulled wine in a reusable cup and had to pay an extra deposit – and people were okay with it.”

co-founders Jacquie Hutchings and Kayli Dale sitting on a porch, eating from blue containers
Friendlier co-founders Jacquie Hutchings and Kayli Dale

The duo is co-founder of more friendly, a reusable container company aiming to reduce single-use plastics, and their model is being piloted at Scotiabank’s head office in Toronto as part of the bank’s broader efforts to reduce waste.

The duo came up with their business plan after noticing the minimalist and ‘cool’ culture of reuse across Europe and realizing they could use their process engineering knowledge, passion to learn and their ability to network to create their own model.

The product itself had to tick several boxes. “It needed to be functional for the restaurant – microwaveable, keeping food hot and fresh, having a really good splatter seal and stacking well so restaurants could keep a large inventory. And the cost couldn’t be astronomical,” Hutchings said.

a blue takeaway container with rice, vegetables, protein
More user-friendly container

Hutchings and Dale landed on 100% polypropylene containers. “They’re made in Ontario, can be used up to 100 times, microwaveable, dishwasher safe and BPA free,” Hutchings said. The color blue was chosen so that the containers would be recyclable in a municipal stream where often black plastics are not recyclable because optical sorters cannot see the black. And after the 100 uses? The circular model means the containers are recycled as pre-consumer recycled material.

The pair also had to create an app to handle the payment side of things. “It’s all done with your phone and it’s basically like renting a container, there’s no real cost to the customer since it’s a refundable deposit,” Dale said.

Jacquie and a scotiabank employee at a friendlier kiosk
Jacquie Hutchings, co-founder of Friendlier and Samuel Agaga, Scotiabank employee

New federal ban on certain single-use plastics

Federal data shows that in 2019, 805 million takeout containers were sold in Canada. These containers are on the list of the 10 most frequently found and intercepted items during beach cleanups in Canada before entering rivers, wetlands, forests and landfills.

The new federal government ban states that companies will not be allowed to import or produce single-use plastic take-out containers by December 2022 and will be prohibited from selling them by December 2023. The Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the change is equivalent to eliminating one million garbage bags full of plastic waste over a 10-year period and the Liberal government aims to achieve its goal of zero plastic waste by 2030.

The Scotiabank perspective

Scotiabank’s strategy is multi-pronged because the components of the plastics problem cannot be considered in isolation. There is a clear opportunity to engage with companies at every stage of the plastics lifecycle and continue to exert their influence to help reduce plastic waste and pollution.

By funding investments for continued packaging innovation, greater use of recycled content, plastic waste sorting technologies and improved recycling, Scotiabank is working to provide solutions to this societal challenge. . Through meetings with North America’s largest waste management companies, consumer organizations and industry leaders, Scotiabank has made clear its interest in providing capital to companies that would develop innovations to reduce plastic waste.

The Bank has also contributed to Conference Board of Canada research to help inform public policy on plastic waste management and in 2021 the Bank joined Circular Economy Leadership Canada (CELC), a dedicated national multi-sector organization promoting solutions that eliminate waste at all stages of the product life cycle and accelerate the transition to a circular economy in Canada. Through its participation in the CELC, Scotiabank has brought together leaders from business and civil society to collaborate in finding innovative circular economy solutions and strengthening the Canadian ecosystem.

Ongoing: The Scotiabank Friendlier pilot project

At Scotiabank’s Toronto headquarters, cafeteria customers used an average of 125,000 disposable plastic pieces per month. Although this is only a relatively small part of the overall problem, every piece of plastic thrown away contributes to the problem – and every small concrete step helps the greater cause.

While compostable and recyclable containers have always been an option, “containers that can be used up to 100 times take us a step further and align with Scotiabank’s sustainability goal of creating a more profitable and more environmentally friendly,” said Dickson Dsouza, Director of Food Services, Global Operations at Scotiabank. “The pilot was launched on July 5 and we will assess the overall effectiveness of the model on employee experience in September,” he said.

Customers will need to select the reusable container, scan the code at the bottom, and follow the instructions to create an account. Although managed by electronic transfer, it is not necessary to provide banking information, just an e-mail address. Their food order will then be served in this container, with the additional rental costs added to the total bill. When done, they drop their container in any marked drop bin in the offices and common areas ecosystem. Customers can track their deposits on the Friendlier app and can even donate their deposit to various charities, such as Dress for Success Canada Foundation.

Hutchings cites The Beer Store as an example of a strong reuse system that has gone mainstream, with an impressive 95% return rate. “We admire how they’ve structured their system by making it convenient and just making it the social norm to bring your bottles back,” she said.

“Restaurants tell us that wasteful packaging is their number one complaint,” Dale said. “Now sustainable containers translate to repeat business, and our customers are even winning sustainability awards.”

But the bigger picture for the founders of Friendlier? They want to completely eliminate the throwaway culture and change the way people think about packaging and consumption. “Although we started with takeout containers, we really want to build an infrastructure where anything and everything can be tracked and reused and nothing ever has to be thrown away,” Hutchings said.

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Bryce K. Locke