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CONSCIOUS CONVENIENCE - changing the streetfood markets' single-use behavior

Denne idé er en del af Impact Challenge - Business with Purpose

Sacha Bastian
3. december 2018

At this point in time our environment no longer allows unconscious convenience. During 2016 the 'Paper Island’ - a Food Market in Copenhagen, Denmark (now closed) - had more than 1.5 million visitors. Assuming 80% buy food and beverages that amounts to 3.5 million disposable cups, plates and cutlery being trashed per year. The result is approximately 350.000 kg CO2 emission which is equivalent to 27 years of energy for an average household. A waste source that could be eliminated.

Providing a ‘tableware-as-a-service’ solution makes it possible for the food market vendors to invest in a sustainable alternative solution to disposable tableware. A business that in the long run will leave them a substantial return. The return comes in various forms: 1) saved expenses on single-use tableware; 2) limited CO2 emission; 3) data on consumer behavior from the asset tracking technology embedded in the reusable product; 4) the opportunity to educate the general public about the solutions available as alternatives to single-use; and 5) being a front runner for green sustainable solutions. 

The reusable product will in the initial phase be sourced, as there is limited time for R&D and production. The RFID technology makes it possible to track assets. It is the technology that is used to track marathon runner’s time or track supply chains’ efficiency. Several suppliers exist hence the first phase, the pilot, is used to make a local proof of concept. The second round of the project focuses on developing branded material to each venue – this could be developed or sourced from a sustainable supplier depending on the funds and investments available. 

Several business models have been considered, but ultimately it has to suit the vendors and facility managers as well as the customers, keeping the change of transaction costs at a minimum. It is a “chicken or egg” situation, as it can be discussed who will change behavior first, the consumer or the supplier? We are positive that venues such as ‘Reffen’, ‘Broens Gadekøkken’,‘Torvehallerne’ and similar initiatives would want to be part of a green transformation. Should this not be the case, an inversed solution of the service could be offered to customers who demand it. For example, a ‘vending machine’ from which the consumer could pay a deposit for a set of tableware, bring it to the food stall, enjoy their food, return it for cleaning and receive their deposit back. Alternative payment solutions are available: it could be provided on a subscription basis, a deposit basis or a paying-per-service basis. 

The operational aspect of the concept is still in the testing phase, as the market for a reusable-service like this is a relatively new concept, so the best practices will be studied as they appear (cupclub.com, dastiffinprojekt.com, recup.com). In theory the project is feasible but a Danish pilot is necessary to test the actual feasibility in the local market. As of now the pilot would be made possible by using volunteers, additional funding/sponsorships and close collaboration with food market vendors. The entire principle of the model revolves around circular economy hence requiring stakeholders for it to succeed. Furthermore, the initiative is in line with the Municipality of Copenhagen’s goals about reducing waste in Copenhagen which is this project’s main goal. The major risks involve hygiene regulation and cleaning facilities.

The project incorporates the following Sustainable Development Goals:Sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, quality education, life below water and partnerships for the goals. More specifically the SDG targets and indicators are:4 (4.7), 11 (11.6, 11.6.2, 11.a, 11.b), 12 (12.1, 12.4, 12.5, 12.6,12.7, 12.8), 14 (14.1), and 17 (17.16, 17.17, 17.19)