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Washable solutions reduce plastic waste

Supermarkets, universities, and hotel chains are exploring ways on how to maximise sustainable returns from washable foodservice solutions.

Woolworths, one of the major supermarkets in Australia, is now working with TerraCycle to deliver a zero-wastage food delivery system. TerraCycle is a US company that delivers grocery essentials in reusable packaging.

They call the system Loop, giving shoppers an option to buy products from popular supermarket brands in reusable packaging instead of ‘recyclable’. Empty product containers used for daily essentials such as hand cream and toothpaste are collected, cleaned and refilled for reuse.

But it is not just supermarkets leading the way – the catering market has its own innovators.

This is how looping works

Customers can order different products online from ice cream and fruit juice to washing detergent and shampoo. The items will be in specifically designed containers and delivered in a special bag to be collected again on the next delivery.

After the products are used, the packaging is collected or returned to the store. The containers then are washed and taken back to the manufacturers for refill. This results in circular shopping system with zero wastage.

“We are pleased to be working with innovative partners like Terracycle to lead the way in offering new and cutting-edge solutions to cut down on plastic waste,” Woolworths sustainability boss Alex Holt said.

TerraCycle Loop is currently also trialling services in the United States and France. They have partnered with postal services and large food and personal care brands including Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Clorox, Nestlé, Mars, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo.

This innovative change is one of the ways to meet the national packaging target for 100% of Australian packaging to be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.

Another Australian company is the RETURNR which has introduced a system where cafes collaborate with food delivery services. Customers buy food packed in a RETURNR container, pay a deposit besides the cost of their meal, and then return the container to any cafe in their network.

On the oher hand, the Kickstarter campaign, Zero Co, aims to eliminate single-use plastic packaging by offering a similar model for a reuse service that covers kitchen, laundry, and bathroom products.

Ditch the disposable

Creating another 'loop' is London university UCL which has launched a 30-page REUSE ‘How To’ Guide for students.

Included is information on 'Ditch the Disposable'. At UCL, around 1 million single-use cups are thrown away every year, says the university. Students and staff are encouraged to use washable, re-usable cups with the simple device of charging them 15p more for their coffee if they choose a disposable cup.

UCL’s Refectory shop

UCL’s Refectory shop is being used as a test bed for plastic free alternative products. If you haven’t seen it already, pop down with your Tupperware to buy plastic-free snacks including pick and mix nuts and fruit. All drinks are also in non-plastic, sustainable containers.

Sodexo has strengthened its commitment to remove single-use plastic items from its operations by making available only wood, paper, cardboard or fibre-based take-away bags, straws, plates, cutlery and stirrers. It has becomes the largest foodservice provider to implement such a commitment in Europe, going beyond the upcoming European Union Single-Use Plastic Directive taking effect July 1st, 2021.

“We understand the role we play in the global efforts to reduce the use of plastics in our daily lives. We are embedding circular economy approaches in our offers to clients and our operations to ensure all waste streams have a beneficial use and nothing goes to waste.”—Simon Mussett, head of waste management at Sodexo UK & Ireland.

Use glass instead of plastic

In 2020 Accor pledged to remove all single-use plastic items from guest-facing experiences by 2022. Testing is being undertaken to find an alternative to plastic water bottles, with glass bottles, jugs and dispensers considered. 

The world's number one tourism business Tui Group which owns travel agencies, hotels, airlines, cruise ships and retail stores has launched a guide to plastic reduction for hotels. They recommend replacing single use cups with hard plastic glasses and glass cups or biodegradable cups made of paper or natural starches.

For conference rooms they advise to use water carafes, dispensers and glasses and glass bottles instead of plastic bottles. In guestrooms including bathrooms wrapped single-use plastic cups can be replaced by hard plastic cups (Polycarbonate or other) and by glass cups. You shouldn't buy plastic wrapped single-use plastic cups but instead consider paper wrappings.

Again, washable solutions come to the fore. Tips within the guide, from Robinson Clubs on Maldives for example, include providing glass bottles instead of plastic to guests. The Clubs have cut the transport and disposal of around 800,000 plastic bottles annually by introducing a fresh drinking water system based on 7,500 new glass bottles which are cleaned locally.

Washable Solutions

Meiko is the world leader in warewashing. Washing glassware and crockery until it is sparkling clean and dry is what caterers worldwide trust us to do.

The challenge for the future is to meet the increasing demand to wash every size and shape of re-usable container. Interestingly, the expertise in washing 'rotables', re-usable cups and other washable but non-glass or ceramic items such as hard plastic plates, is not so much in the washing, as in the drying and handling.

Learn more on Meiko's washable solutions in our whitepaper on 'Avoiding Plastic Waste'. Or contact your local Meiko office for more information and to discuss the possibilities.