Crystal Clear for Reusable Systems

“Re-Use as a successful concept for sustainability”: that was the theme of a FACHPACK-forum at PACKBOX. Experts presented ideas and practical examples for the packaging of the future, including glass reusable systems and a digital system for stainless steel trays.

Does the reusable system in Germany work smoothly, and what does it mean for the environmental balance? This was the question posed by Peter Désilets, Managing Director of Pacoon GmbH, design agency for sustainable packaging, as moderator of the PACKBOX event. He discussed innovative approaches to solutions with representatives of new and established suppliers from the packaging industry, who presented them in individual talks.

In times of environmental and climate protection, “plastic free” and unpackaged stores, a good system is needed that meets the basic requirements for product protection, transport and communication functions. At the same time, handling for the consumer and also return and cleaning must be as simple as possible, and long-term use or circulation is the most important criterion for positive CO2 reduction, says Désilets.

There are more opportunities to establish reusable more strongly, all speakers said. Juliane Spieker is co-founder of Pfabo GmbH, which was established in 2020. Pfabo is a system of modular deposit boxes that also fit into the common modular dimension and palletization scheme. These boxes serve as filling boxes for fresh salads and to-go items to avoid disposable cups or boxes. Retailers have been involved in the development of the system, he said, and initial tests are underway at Bio Company. The fact that she and her company partner – her brother Adrian Spieker – received the Red Dot Design Award for Pfabo 2021 also makes her optimistic that the path is the right one. “One goal of our system is to enable uncomplicated, spontaneous shopping,” Spieker said.

Iris Vilsmaier is also a young entrepreneur and recently founded Circujar GmbH. The company’s goal is to establish glass as a reusable packaging material. Far more food than yogurt could be sold in glass. Vilsmaier has developed her own glass containers that will serve for soups, sauces, spreads and also other products – including for fillers of pre-packaged goods on supermarket shelves. “Glass is a popular packaging material, but it doesn’t make sense in a single-use system.” Circujar is a pool provider that accepts the glass back from consumers, collects it, cleans it and transports it further. If the glass is no longer good quality, it is taken to the recycling center, he said. The take-back and quality control service is funded through the user fee.

It is important to ensure reusability, he said. This requires appropriate labeling and the use of reusable crates. The manufacturer of the product can communicate with customers via the labeling – separate packaging for this is not necessary, she said.

Stainless steel trays replace disposable packaging

Daniel Weber of Eatainable, a reusable system for the catering industry that Rieber GmbH has been using successfully for some time, presented his experience of how a digitized system of metal containers in the catering industry – but also in retail – can offer added value for consumers and distributors.

With Eatainable, Rieber GmbH presents a digital food reusable system for takeaway meals in restaurants and canteens as well as for canteen kitchens in communal catering – stainless steel containers with vacuum lids replace disposable packaging and deposit systems. Instead of deposits, a QR code scan ensures the return. Using QR codes, Eatainable monitors and documents the path of food in the reusable containers from the kitchen to the guest all the way back to the dishwashing kitchen. Because the QR codes are affixed to the containers, the system can be easily retrofitted to existing containers, Weber said.

Dr. Anika Oppermann of  “shafuto – shaping the future together” monitors developments in reusable concepts and advises companies interested in this alternative to single-use packaging. “Reusable systems don’t work without return and cleaning logistics,” she stressed. She expressed her conviction that “reusable is more and can do more” than before. The examples cited at the PACKBOX forum proved this, as did the moderator’s conclusion.

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