This blog is translated from German with DeepL.
Refill 100 times instead of throwing away 100 times
A success story on the way to a better future.
What do you think reducing waste, littering, pollution and energy waste have to do with food, eating and takeaway?
Since 2017, people in Switzerland have been paying a fee for even the smallest plastic bags in an effort to reduce the world’s mountains of waste. But there are many other areas where mountains of waste can be reduced and/or avoided. We are working on one of these projects.
This is a success story about sustainability and ecology.
At the beginning of a project there is always an idea and a need.
In this case it was (and is) the need to lead our today’s throwaway society into a new era. reCIRCLE starts here with food, more precisely with takeaway. In this industry, although some things are done more or less in the direction of “recyclable” or “recycled”, there is still great potential in terms of recycling. Using material that is already “in the loop” again as recyclate, biodegradable or recyclable, certainly makes sense. But wouldn’t it make even more sense not to throw anything away at all?
This is where the idea of reCIRCLE comes in: a takeaway tableware that can be used again and again.
The idea sounds simple and plausible. “I have in mind a system where I buy a takeaway meal at the train station in Bern and can return the dishes to another takeaway when I get off the train in Zurich,” says Jeannette Morath, founder of reCIRCLE and herself a woman with a background in the hotel and tourism industry and a master’s degree in environmental engineering and management. She clarified the acceptance and requirements for a reusable takeaway tableware with a preliminary project. The success of the preliminary project and the experience gained from it led to the initialization of today’s reCIRCLE project.
To develop the series product, Jeannette Morath turned to the designer Thomas Liebe and to us, Gimelli Engineering AG. Together we created a specification for the tableware set and the first draft for the design from the experiences and needs.
As is often the case in development, products that sound mundane at first have many requirements that are not quite so mundane. In this project, design, shape and volume requirements, as well as stackability, tightness and other functional requirements had to be combined with food and other requirements. In addition, the requirements for the material were “not without their own problems”. After all, the food should not only be transported hot, but also be able to be reheated.
And this is where the “fine details” come in – everyone knows that “microwave-safe” tableware survives the microwave without problems, but rarely without damage in the long term. The reason: simple microwave-safe containers are only resistant up to 120°C. This is enough to keep dry or watery dishes out of the microwave. That’s enough to heat dry food or food containing water. But if, for example, a drop of fat or oil from a piece of meat is heated in the microwave, temperatures of up to 180°C are generated. This leads to local decomposition of many plastics, causing the widely known unsightly stains. Not so with our dishes.
Other requirements were, of course, stability, suitability for the dishwasher and BPA-free materials (BPA = bisphenol-A, a chemical compound and an important component of very many plastics – but for some years controversial because of possible health risks in the food sector).
The development project
In a close and very direct cooperation between reCIRCLE, Gimelli Engineering AG and Thomas Liebe Design the product “Takeaway Tableware” was developed. Ongoing, the requirements were reconsidered together and, if necessary, adapted so that the product was as perfectly aligned as possible with the applications.
Always involved was the topic of “serial manufacturability”.
After the design was checked with prototypes from 3D printing and SLS (selective laser sintering) and further adapted to the customer’s requirements in 1 to 2 loops, we had made it: the long-awaited release for tool production for serial production could be granted.
We also pick up food from restaurants, takeaways, food trucks, bakeries, canteens, etc. – we are all reCirclers.
True to the motto: Refill 100 times instead of throwing away 100 times.