Reusing takeaway packaging: We tried out the Swiss solution in Copenhagen

reCIRCLE has chosen the eggplant colour because the company perceives it as most gender neutral. Currently, there are two cups and a bowl available in Denmark, which can be seen on the shelf at Green Love. Illustration: Jakob Engelund Vistisen

At the vegan restaurant Green Love on Godthåbsvej in Frederiksberg, there are a number of different Tupperware-like products made out of purple plastic on the shelves, side by side with vegan chocolates and Fairtrade coffee.

There are posters by reCIRCLE on the walls, which has supplied the plastic packaging that Green Love advertises next to the cash register.

reCIRCLE is a Swiss company that produces reusable takeaway packaging. The company’s products have begun to appear around Europe, including at Green Love and five other locations in Copenhagen.

WasteTech has previously written about a report on reusable takeaway packaging. The conclusion was that customers are simply not aware that the possibility of opting for reusable packaging exists. But at Green Love, the eggplant coloured plastic bowls and cups stand out in the open and make consumers aware of the possibility of replacing disposable packaging with a more climate-friendly alternative.

“Everyone is trying to get it visually exposed. We have had success with discount schemes when one buys the reusable packaging,” says Kristian Kromann, who is the Danish dealer of reCIRCLE.

A cup of coffee for DKK 77

The packaging lives in its own small ecosystem that acts as a deposit scheme, which we know from bottles and cans. reCIRCLE has a deposit of DKK 40 on cups and DKK 75 on bowls.

Therefore, WasteTech’s journalist must also pay DKK 77 for an Americano at Green Love, before we together with Kristian Kromann start walking towards Nordre Fasanvej to visit another of the six restaurants that have reCIRCLE’s packaging products in their range.

At Homeland, a Vietnamese restaurant on Nordre Fasanvej, I hand over the coffee cup and get my DKK 40 back.

The products themselves are made of polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) with 30 percent glass fibre to increase durability. The lids are made of polypropylene (PP). The materials and the process are somewhat more resource-intensive than producing disposable packaging, but it does not take many uses before the reusable packaging becomes the sustainable choice.

An Americano for DKK 77. Upon returning the cup, I got the deposit of DKK 40 back. Illustration: Jakob Engelund Vistisen

According to the company’s own LCA analysis, the cups must be reused 15 times before they are more sustainable than disposable products.

“Production and transport in Switzerland are climate neutral. But when we buy it, it is our responsibility. But within the next few years, we will work to make transport to Denmark climate neutral as well,” Kristian Kromann says.

Pizza is next on the line

Pizza is one of the most popular takeaway dishes. And soon reCIRCLE will have its bid on a reusable pizza box ready.

The pizza box will consist of two circular boxes that are identical and made of BPT plastic. The two halves can thus be screwed together to form a closed pizza tray. The tray is equipped with adjustable ventilation openings, so you can decide for yourself how you want your pizza.

The closed plastic pizza box keeps steam and heat from the pizza inside, resulting in a hot, soft pizza. If the tray is equipped with openings to preserve the crispiness, the pizza loses heat. reCIRCLE has come up with a solution where the consumer can choose what they prefer.

“There is an option to close or open the ventilation opening, which means that there is an option to choose a crispy or a hot pizza. People swear by different things. It has become a bit of a thing people geek out over,” Kristian Kromann says.

Desire for better logistics

Reusable packaging was part of the current mayor of Copenhagen Sophie Hæstorp Andersen’s election campaign. So far, a working group has been set up consisting of companies that can provide solutions and restaurant owners, who must work together to promote reusable packaging.

Kristian Kromann is pleased that the topic is receiving political attention:

“There is always an option of a ‘carrot and stick approach’. In terms of legislation, for example, one can look at Germany, where it will be a legal requirement for restaurants to offer reusable packaging from 2023.”

Last year, the German parliament approved a law requiring that all restaurants enable customers to choose reusable packaging when they buy takeaway, whether it is food or beverages, starting from 2023.

When asked about specific wishes for how the municipality can help reCIRCLE and other players in reusable packaging in Copenhagen, Kristian Kromann has one specific wish: logistics.

“It could be to set up some central collection points that can collect this packaging. It would be a great help if over time some logistics were implemented around this,” he says.

In addition to reCIRCLE, there are two other players operating in Copenhagen that are trying to spread reusable takeaway packaging, namely Kleen hub and New Loop.

If the reusable packaging wins, then a common logistics system will be a great help to get the packaging back to the restaurants, according to Kristian Kromann.

“Especially as reusable systems—not just limited to takeaway and to-go packaging solutions—are gaining ground, there may be a need for common logistics, return, and distribution systems,” he says.