The importance of sustainable packaging solutions in the catering industry
The foodservice industry faces the challenge of finding sustainable packaging solutions to reduce its environmental impact. One effective way to achieve this is through the use of reusable containers. These containers, as the name suggests, can be reused and help eliminate single-use packaging.
At the latest since the introduction of mandatory reusable packaging in the catering industry, every restaurant operator has dealt with the alternatives to classic disposable packaging and probably asked themselves: Which reusable alternative is the right one for my restaurant? We clarify and introduce you to the reusable systems of the various suppliers.
Our petroleum-free shopping bags and shipping bags are biodegradable and water-soluble. Try them and see for yourself.
What are reusable containers for restaurants?
Reusable containers are reusable packaging that restaurants can use instead of disposable packaging. They are often made of sturdy materials like plastic or stainless steel and can be cleaned and reused after use. These containers offer a sustainable alternative to single-use packaging and help reduce packaging waste.
Why should restaurants use reusable containers?
Restaurants have several reasons why they should switch to reusable containers. First, reusable containers help reduce packaging waste and reduce environmental impact. Traditional single-use packaging is often thrown away after a single use and pollutes the environment through its production and disposal.
Second, restaurants can save money by using reusable containers. Although the initial investment in reusable containers may be higher, it pays off in the long run by eliminating the need for constant reorders of disposable packaging.
In addition, more consumers:are choosing restaurants that support environmentally friendly practices. By switching to reusable containers, restaurants can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and appeal to potential customers.
Which reusable system is right, deposit or non-deposit?
How do reusable deposit systems work?
In a deposit system, customers pay a certain amount for the packaging, which they get back when they return it. This is intended to create an incentive not to throw away the packaging, but to return it or pass it on to a collection partner. One example of a deposit system is reCIRCLE, which is active in Germany and Switzerland. ReCIRCLE offers restaurants reusable plastic trays that are microwave and dishwasher safe. Customers pay a €10 deposit per bowl and can return them to any participating restaurant or to a pick-up partner. Other notable providers with deposit systems include RECUP/REBOWL and Sykell.
Advantages of a deposit system:
- It motivates customers to return or pass on packaging by offering them a financial benefit.
- It reduces packaging waste and saves resources.
- It can increase customer loyalty by promoting a shared sustainability goal.
- Returning reusable containers means your customers always come back to you twice.
Disadvantages of a deposit system:
- It requires a high investment in the purchase, cleaning and logistics of the reusable packaging.
- It can lead to a high loss of packaging if customers do not return or pass it on.
- It can lead to higher costs for the customers if they have to transport and store the packaging.
What are the costs for reCIRCLE?
ReCIRCLE costs you 13.5 cents per rental for a reusable container and 8 cents per rental for a reusable cup (both plus VAT). The deposit for the boxes is 10 € and the deposit for the cups is 5 €.
What are the costs for RECUP (REBOWL)?
With RECUP (REBOWL), the user fee for your restaurant or café is 1 € per day, i.e. approximately 30 € per month plus the deposit for the respective products, which you pass on 100% to your customers. Your customers pay a deposit of 5 € for REBOWLs and 1 € for RECUPs.
What are the costs for Sykell?
Sykell has a different usage fee depending on the service model. For cafes and restaurants that have their own dishwashing infrastructure, the Sykell Basic model is a good option, starting at 7.90 € per month. Sykell costs a deposit of between 1 € and 2.50 € for your customers.
Which reusable containers and reusable cups does reCIRCLE offer?
The product portfolio of the deposit providers is very similar. ReCIRCLE offers several reCIRCLE boxes with a capacity between 700ml and 1200ml and has reusable cups in the sizes 90ml, 300ml and 500ml. ReCIRCLE allows its partners:in the free use of matching reusable cutlery to the reusable containers and has developed a reusable box for pizza, which is already available for pre-order.
Which reusable containers and reusable cups does RECUP (REBOWL) offer?
RECUP (REBOWL) has REBOWLs ranging from 550ml to 1100ml capacity and four different RECUP sizes ranging from 0.2l to 0.5l capacity. Speaking of offering: RECUP (REBOWL) partners with Lieferando, UberEats and Wolt, so you can sell in RECUP (REBOWL) reusable containers through their suppliers! You can find out more about the sustainability of delivery services here.
What reusable containers and reusable cups does Sykell offer?
Sykell offers reusable containers between 500ml and 1200ml and their reusable cups have a capacity between 200ml and 400ml.
How do "non-deposit systems" work?
In a "non-deposit system" your customers do not pay for the packaging, but borrow it. The packaging is provided either by your restaurant itself or by an external supplier. If the customers return the packaging in a timely manner without exceeding the time window set by the provider, the loan remains free of charge for the customers. Once the time window is exceeded, an amount is due and the customers purchase the packaging. An example of a "non-deposit system" is Vytal, which is active in Germany and Austria. Vytal offers restaurants reusable plastic trays that are microwaveable and dishwasher-safe. Customers:can register for free with Vytal and receive a QR code to scan when they purchase a dish. They can return the tray to any participating restaurant or to a return machine. Vytal takes care of cleaning and maintaining the trays. Another provider with a "non-deposit" system is Relevo.
Advantages of a "non-deposit system":
- It lowers the barrier to entry for customers by not imposing a cost on them.
- It reduces packaging waste and saves resources.
- It can increase customer satisfaction by giving them more flexibility.
- Your customers will be enticed to come back a second time to return their reusable containers.
Disadvantages of a "no deposit" system:
- An app puts an additional hurdle in the way of your customers
- It requires a large investment in the purchase, cleaning and logistics of the reusable containers.
- It can lead to a lower return of packaging if customers keep it or throw it away.
- It can lead to a higher risk of fraud or abuse if customers borrow or sell multiple trays.
What are the costs of Vytal?
You can pay for Vytal's reusable containers per use or by flat rate and it will cost you approximately 300 € per 500 uses. Your customers have no costs as long as they return the containers within 14 days. If your customers exceed the 14-day return period, they can extend this for 1 €. If this period also expires, your customers will be charged 10 € for a reusable bowl and 4 € for a reusable cup and they will have purchased the bowl or cup and will not have to return it. If your customers do want to return it, there is no money back, but a credit.
What are the costs of Relevo?
With Relevo, you get a 2-month flat rate when you buy a starter pack, which costs between 99 € and 499 € plus VAT, depending on the quantity of reusable containers included. For two months, you can borrow all the reusable containers you receive as often as you like. At the end of the two months, a reusable cup will cost you 12.5 cents per loan, a reusable bowl 25 cents per loan and a pizza box 30 cents per loan (all plus VAT). Your customers can borrow Relevo reusable containers free of charge as long as they return them within 14 days. After that, your customers will be charged a "climate fee" of 5 € per reusable cup and 10 € per reusable cup. This means that your customers purchase the reusable cup and no longer have to return it.
Which reusable containers and reusable cups do Vytal and Relevo offer?
The product portfolio of "non-deposit providers" is generally no different from that of deposit providers. Vytal and Relevo just stand out here, as both offer a particularly large product range and, in addition to the usual reusable bowls and reusable cups made of BPA-free plastic, also have sushi boxes, pizza containers, burger boxes and cutlery as reusable options to choose from. In addition, Vytal offers white label businesses the opportunity to market their own solutions with their own principle.
Relevo also offers many reusable containers in a glass version, giving it the widest product range of any supplier.
Both Vytal and Relevo cooperate with well-known delivery services. Vytal is available to your customers through Lieferando and UberEats. Relevo also packages your food for delivery with Lieferando, UberEats and Wolt.
How does a reusable hybrid system work?
Hybrid systems work both with a deposit, determined by the provider, and without a deposit, where customers must borrow the reusable containers free of charge and return them within a certain time window. Here, too, the returnable containers are purchased if the customers exceed the return time window. In a hybrid system, customers can decide for themselves which type of lending they prefer. The provider Tiffin Loop uses such a hybrid system.
Tiffin Loop is one of the few plastic-free providers of reusable packaging and, thanks to the hybrid system, is well suited to both spontaneous and app-averse customers and savvy savers who don't want to pay a deposit.
If your customers opt for the deposit system in the hybrid approach, they can use the so-called "Tiffin Card" as a deposit for a reusable container. No app or online registration is necessary for your customers.
With Tiffin Loop's deposit-free system, as with Vytal and Relevo, registration in the app is a prerequisite and the reusable containers are registered via QR code scan at the checkout. After borrowing, your customer:s have 14 days to return the Tiffin Loop reusable containers at no cost. After the return period, a fee will be charged.
What are the costs for Tiffin Loop?
There is no basic fee with Tiffin Loop. You only pay for the reusable containers per rental. At Tiffin Loop, a reusable cup costs 15 cents per loan plus VAT and a reusable container costs 25 cents per loan plus VAT.
Your customers pay a deposit of 20 € for the Tiffin Card, which is returned to you in exchange for a reusable container. If your customers use Tiffin Loop's deposit-free system, the loan remains free of charge as long as they return the reusable containers within the 14-day return period. After this period, your customers will be charged 20 €.
The comparatively high amount of money of 20 € as a deposit or as an amount to be paid after the return period makes Tiffin Loop the most expensive provider for your customers, but the incentive to return the reusable containers is also very high, which means that the reusable containers are very likely to remain in circulation.
What reusable containers and reusable cups does Tiffin Loop offer?
Tiffin Loop has a comparatively small product portfolio. However, if you only need the basics and are looking for good quality in return, you might find what you are looking for at Tiffin Loop. Unlike the other suppliers, Tiffin Loop's reusable containers are plastic-free and made of sturdy stainless steel.
The Tiffin Bowl with matching lid is stackable, with a practical handle and has a capacity of 1200ml.
The Tiffin Cup is double walled and therefore has an insulating effect. Its standardized size is suitable for all conventional to-go lids and it holds 350ml.
In addition, Tiffin Loop also has the Tiffin Bag, which allows the transport of up to five Tiffin Bowls stacked.
Reusable containers from your own restaurant
With so many suppliers, some with similar to identical concepts, one might get the idea to simply take one of the concepts themselves and create reusable containers for their own restaurant. The simplest and most cost-effective system for you would be the deposit system. The cost of developing and programming an app for a deposit-free system is significantly higher.
The advantages are that you can choose the material and the size of your reusable containers yourself. In addition, with your own reusable system, your customers can only return their reusable containers to you and are therefore very likely to come back a second time to return them. The running costs to a company that provides you with the reusable containers are eliminated. If your customers are mainly returning, reliable regular customers, your own reusable system may be the best solution for you.
In addition, you have one-time purchase costs, which can range from low to high depending on the material, size and quantity of your desired containers.
Being the only point of return could be a disadvantage if you have many customers who do not live in your city and cannot easily return your reusable containers. For example, cities with a high percentage of tourists or locations at train stations or landmarks would not be so well suited for your own reusable system.
Our conclusion: Which reusable system is the best?
All reusable providers are good alternatives for producing less waste. Which system is best for your restaurant depends on your clientele and preferences.
The reCIRCLE, RECUP (REBOWL) and Sykell deposit systems work well for restaurants and cafes that have fast-paced customers who are on the go and just want to grab a quick sustainable to-go drink. If your restaurant or café is in a location with a lot of walk-in customers, the deposit system is definitely a good option.
If your customers are budget-conscious and you have dishes on the menu that require special packaging, such as pizza, sushi or burgers, then the Vytal or Relevo deposit-free systems are a good choice. Thanks to their particularly large product portfolio, anyone with special packaging requirements will find what they are looking for, and your customers can borrow the packaging completely free of charge.
If you and your customers attach great importance to sustainable, preferably plastic-free materials for reusable containers and simple containers are perfectly adequate, the hybrid system Tiffin Loop is the most suitable provider for you.
If none of the above-mentioned providers meet your requirements and your restaurant or café is limited to a local area and reliable regular customers, it is worth considering your own reusable system. You can choose the reusable containers according to your needs and price and are completely free as far as the cost for your customers is concerned.
Photos: RECUP, Vytal, reCircle