In early 2020, I teamed up with 5 other passionate students ("AA33") at IE University to take up the challenge to advise Madrid restaurants to reduce plastics in food delivery.
With over 200 participants and 33 teams from IE, AA33 qualified in the finals competing with 7 groups. We embarked on a learning expedition of interviewing sustainability consultants, waste management experts, and suppliers in Spain.
Like everything else, COVID curtailed our chance of completing the challenge. The networking experience and knowledge accumulation in less than 2 months were invaluable so we share our insights on our journey.
🍴 5 Ways Restaurants can sell the benefits of Sustainable Packaging🍶
➀ Cost Savings💲 : Negotiate with suppliers early on than waiting till 2021 when EU plastic ban comes into force that can drive prices up with increased demand.
➁ Brand Image🌍 : Train your employees on the job to reduce wastes and care for the environment. Employees are the brand ambassadors of the restaurant who are in the frontline serving the customers.
➂ Early adopter advantage⚡️: Be a leader in your industry through best practices in the adoption of reusable systems.
A Madrid restaurant owner commented:
"Our desserts are served in plastics because they sell more when our customers see the visual impact ."
To this, the restaurant can focus on improving the customer experience, the food aroma, and serving food in reusable glass containers for the dine-in experience.
For food delivery, nudge positive behaviors by communicating messages marked outside your packaging with examples such as, "I deserve a second life- care to reuse?"
➃ Know Thy Packaging Material: Our waste experts have spoken- there is no silver bullet on "sustainable packaging" as this decision is contextual. What we gathered is that packaging is sustainable if it's necessary(not excessive) sourced from a locally abundant material, and recyclable by Madrid's Municipal Waste Management.
AHA MOMENT 🔔
Not all compostable materials are created equal. UK Plastics Pact issued guidelines for businesses, warning the use of compostable packaging such as bioplastics made of cornstarch and cassava which may cause problems to industrial recycling facilities.
➄Focus on the quick wins: Encourage customers to opt-out “extras” during takeaway- straws, cutleries, condiments, napkins, extra bags that end up wasted in the household.
The Deliveroo Project raised awareness in understanding the importance of sustainable packaging and wastes in general. More work needs to be done in waste prevention. What AA33 Team has achieved is taking the first steps in the right direction on engaging the right stakeholders on this topic. The bigger challenge is execution and making an impact to the food delivery space!