Flexible ways to wash reusable dishware
Two companies using Meiko warewashing technology are models for this
Disposable dishware is a thing of the past. In order to avoid plastic waste and conserve our environment, organisers of large events are opting for reusable dishware rather than disposable plastics more and more frequently. This article presents different options for managing reusable dishware and explains how the right warewashing technology can help.
You can read more about the plastic issue in these articles:
‘The Plastic Problem’ featuring facts and figures from all over a world in which plastic is omnipresent, including the consequences for animals, people and planet
‘This is how we can avoid plastic waste’ which presents nine tips to help us to produce less plastic waste in our day-to-day lives
Grabbing a quick coffee on the way to work is a luxury enjoyed by thousands of people every day. Plastic waste here, conserving the environment there – takeaway coffee is all the rage. In Berlin alone, around 20,000 disposable cups are handed across the coffee shop counter every hour. That adds up to more than 170 million cups per year. Figures are similar in other metropolitan cities such as Paris, Milan, Zurich and Amsterdam.
The European Union (EU) has passed a new directive to reduce the manufacture and use of disposable plastic items. From 2021, certain ‘disposable plastic items’ must not be sold. These items are either completely or partially made of plastic or polystyrene and are generally intended for one-off or short-term use. This includes coffee cups, plastic plates and cutlery, straws, balloon sticks, cotton buds, polystyrene food packaging and much more.
With the announcement of the ban on disposable plastics, more and more unusual materials and novel processes are making it to market all the time. Takeaway coffee cups are now available made from renewable raw materials like bamboo, palm leaves, bagasse (a product of processing raw sugar) or maize. These options are intended to leave consumers with a clear conscience.
When we look more closely, though, there are downsides to these supposedly eco-friendly alternatives. One such downside is the frequent use of melamine in cups made from bamboo. This is a synthetic resin which acts as a glue, holding the plant fibres together. The problem: at temperatures upwards of 70 °C, melamine starts to release formaldehyde, a harmful substance which is thought to cause cancer.
But how can we effectively avoid plastic waste? It seems we need to combine two approaches: firstly, we should do without plastic products where possible. Secondly, when we need plastic products, we should reuse them as often as possible. In other words: choose reusable items rather than disposable ones.
Michael Andresen, founder of logistics company for reusable dishware ‘cup&more – Andresen Mehrweglogistik,’ shows us how it is done. Several years ago, this innovative businessman from Bad Segeberg installed a Meiko M-iQ commercial dishwasher on a semi-trailer and he tours this ‘mobile cleaning unit’ all over Europe. Andresen's team handles the warewashing at Wacken Open Air, one of the largest metal music festivals in the world.
At the football World Cup in Stuttgart in 2006, cup&more cleaned around 1.5 million reusable cups using the M-iQ. Not to mention a million cups at Dresden Christmas market.
The success of this business model is partially down to Andresen's flexibility and partially down to the company's impressive versatility. cup&more provides reusable cups to hire or to buy and they can be custom printed on request. Plus the flexible, onsite warewashing service.
Michael Andresen has a solution for stationary customers, such as bakeries and cafés, too: they have their takeaway cups collected and cleaned centrally before they are distributed again. This system has to work smoothly, so Andresen commissioned some in-house software for a smart deposit system.
Mirza van Meerwijk, Gawein Hamers and Jeffrey Hool of CupStack are also on a reusable dishware mission. These three Dutch entrepreneurs offer a comprehensive package for large events, including consultation, logistics, coordination, cleaning and storage of hard-plastic cups. This company, too, uses Meiko warewashing technology.
Mirza van Meerwijk is won over by the M-iQ flight type dishwashing machines's performance: ‘We have reduced our payroll costs by 50 % because we now load straight into the M-iQ and unload semi-automatically.’ He is also enthusiastic about the washing result (approx. 10,000 cups per hour) and the level of dryness achieved.
Most reusable cups are made from robust polypropylene. This may be a type of plastic but since it is used for so long, its environmental impact is much lower than that of disposable cups. And it is fully recyclable. The right warewashing technology is a prerequisite for a successful reusable cup system. If cups are to be handled optimally and efficiently, they need to be cleaned and dried quickly and thoroughly. This can only be achieved using a professional dishwashing machine and the right detergent for the washware.
Everyone can play a part in protecting our environment. According to Deutsche Umwelthilfe (German Environment Aid), eradicating takeaway coffee cups would save 31,000 tonnes of waste in Germany alone every year. It is difficult to imagine just how high that figure would be if we banned all disposable cups globally.