It may come as a bit of a surprise to realise that takeaway food is linked closely to not one but two major global issues.
Takeaway food is gaining popularity as scores of people are leaving the countryside in search of a more fast-paced and around-the-clock lifestyle under the bright lights of metropolitan cities, where meals are ostensibly gobbled down while rushing through the lobby of a skyscraper to the street to hail a taxi.
The containers and utensils left over from the perfunctory feat are then crammed into the nearest rubbish bin so routinely that it suggests an ignorance of the plastic waste problem the world is grappling with.
The attitudinal climate is fortunately changing, and consumers, companies and governments in growing numbers are taking action to reduce plastic pollution.
One such company is Koepala, a Helsinki-based developer of innovative and sustainable packaging solutions for takeaway food.
“Our long-term goal is to truly change the current throw-away culture that is symbolised so concretely by fast-food containers,” proclaims Janne Asikainen, the CEO at Koepala. “Our innovations aim at facilitating a move towards a waste-free fast-food culture, where the containers and raw materials are not reduced to waste but recycled one way or the other so that their value is preserved.”
He reminds that what is needed are not only more sustainable packaging materials but also a comprehensive shift away from the prevalent consumption culture and attitudes.
“If we stick to our linear and single-use approach to packaging and materials, it’ll be unsustainable regardless of the material as the production inputs will be lost over the couple of steps it takes you to order a meal in a restaurant, eat at the nearest table and chuck the container into a rubbish bin,” he explains.
Koepala, he tells, sees itself as a packaging-oriented innovation agency that develops, tests and commercialises the best solutions, and provides them to businesses dealing with both food and logistics.
“Our first clients are from the travel catering industry. For instance, airline catering companies say 80 per cent of their business is about logistics and the rest about food,” says Asikainen.
“But regardless of whether you’re a packaging manufacturer, food producer, catering company or fast-food brand, we can give you an extra hand in packaging development,” he adds. “For instant food producers, it’s logistically absurd to send cups of noodles that are half full of air just so that it’s easy to add water. The benefits are significant if you remove the air from the logistics process.”
An enjoyable, guilt-free dining experience
Koepala’s first attempt at an answer is a patented eco-friendly and multi-purpose packaging solution called Aterimo.
The solution has been designed to replace all the cups, bowls, plates, trays and other takeaway containers – as well as any additional caps, lids and sleeves – in use today, while substantially reducing the need for raw materials and storage space.
“Our rollable packaging reduces storage space needs to one-tenth when compared to stackable alternatives. The amount of raw material needed for a single packaging is equal to that needed for the lid of a disposable salad bowl. We’re able to reduce the need for raw materials in the first stage by as much as 50 per cent compared to existing solutions,” tells Asikainen.
Aterimo is slated for its launch in the UK and Benelux countries by late 2019.
“The product we’ll be launching is made of plastic-free, fibre-like material. We also tested different compostable films and composite materials but decided to go in an even more environment-friendly direction.”
However, the solution is not all about creating resource savings for catering services, fast-food restaurants and instant food producers, or the logistics providers involved in delivering the food to consumers. Nor is it even all about reducing the environmental impact of such commercial activity.
“We want to offer these improvements in efficiency without taking anything away from the enjoyable dining experience,” Asikainen states.