Hey Circle and Austrian Post: Pioneering work for sustainable reuse e-commerce packaging picks up speed

Image source: hey circle, Montage

Hey Circle and Austrian Post: Pioneering work for sustainable reuse e-commerce packaging picks up speed

Thomas Reiner | 27.09.2023

In the dynamic world of e-commerce, the search for sustainable reusable solutions has become increasingly important. A notable example of such a possible solution is the startup “Hey Circle”, which offers reusable e-commerce bags. The recent collaboration between Hey Circle and Österreichische Post AG confirms the assumption that simple and easily adaptable solutions are needed to close the loop in online shipping. It also shows that it is this simplicity that is a potential key to widespread uptake in shipping and return flows by large logistics and infrastructure companies, and thus can become a real impact on consumer behavior.

 

 

Hey Circle’s concept has proven to be highly adaptable, which makes it attractive to contractual partners such as Österreichische Post AG. Austrian offers business customers the option of using Hey Circle’s reusable packaging as part of its “Post Loop Service Plus”. This partnership not only simplifies the delivery and return process, but also includes the cleaning of the bags. The bags themselves are branded under the Austrian Post label so that they are just as recognizable as Hey Circle’s turquoise packaging.

 

Foreseeable success: the rise of simple solutions in e-commerce

Already a few months ago, we mentioned in a blog article the advantage of the startup’s “lean” approach. The latest collaboration illustrates the versatility of the concept and shows its potential applicability across different industries and user groups.

What really sets the approach apart is its focus on convenience for customers, a critical factor in the success of any take-back system.

For sustainable packaging solutions like Hey Circle to catch on, consumers must be invited to integrate them seamlessly into their daily lives. This adaptability is key to widespread adoption.

The bags provided by Hey Circle are designed for user-friendly returns.

  • They can be easily folded and returned by the end consumer via the mailbox.
  • Empty returns already have the return address affixed by a label on a fold-out flap.
  • Conventional returns are returned to the shipping customer with a return label.
  • Clear instructions for return shipping can be found directly on the bag and at post.at/postloop.

 

 Hey Circle’s giant leap: from startup to pioneer

Although Hey Circle is a newcomer to the market, the company has quickly gained momentum since its launch in 2022 and already boasts 25 customers in German-speaking countries. Successful trials with well-known brands such as eyewear designer VIU and clothing manufacturer Trigema underscore the maturity of the approach.

These successful beginnings give hope for further innovative solutions in the future. Such solutions are also needed. The European Union Commission’s current draft EU packaging regulation also specifically targets the e-commerce industry. The draft pushes ambitious goals:

  • Ten percent of all transport packaging in online retailing is to be reusable by 2030, and at least fifty percent by 2040.

 

Success is measured by longevity and CO2 effectiveness.

Interest in testing cost-effective solution seems to be growing. The reusable packaging can be used at least 50 times before being recycled into PP and PET streams thanks to its durable and easy-care design.

Advantageous attributes of Hey-Circle packaging are:

  • A water and dirt repellent surface.
  • lightweight yet durable honeycomb inner panels
  • Zippers that eliminate the need for adhesive tape
  • and the ability to recondition easily damaged bags

 

In addition, the effective use of packaging solutions, with a focus on the ideal size and weight relationship between the packaged product and the packaging, will be critical to reducing carbon emissions associated with each shipment.

 

Cooperation with perspective

Hey Circle’s collaboration with Austrian Post is a promising example of sustainable e-commerce packaging in action. While many other solutions in the industry tend to be overly complex, Hey Circle’s straightforward approach and cost-effectiveness have attracted the attention of major infrastructure providers. As the e-commerce sector comes under increasing scrutiny for its environmental impact, Hey Circle’s reusable packaging offers a possible, practical and sustainable way forward that aligns with the ambitious goals of the draft EU Packaging Regulation.

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Heinz Tomato Ketchup launches fully recyclable squeeze cap without silicone

Image source: business wire

Heinz Tomato Ketchup launches fully recyclable squeeze cap without silicone

Thomas Reiner | 22.09.2023

US food giant The Kraft Heinz Company has launched a new closure in the UK for squeeze bottles of its Heinz brand of tomato ketchup. The innovative closure is made of mono-material and is completely recyclable. Replacing the silicone previously used without compromising functionality is no easy task. The fact that Heinz has mastered the challenges proves the innovative strength of our industry. And it shows that progress often comes in many smaller, individual steps.

 

 

Closures have so far often proved to be a sticking point and bottleneck for the recycling of bottles and tubes. Especially in the case of squeeze bottles, which dispense their contents by exerting pressure on the bottle body, silicone has been used in most cases up to now.

 

Silicone

Silicone ensures that the cap’s “valve” is flexible and that the bottle’s contents can be removed by consumers easily and at the same time in a controlled manner. From an environmental and recycling perspective, however, silicone has disadvantages.

  • Chemically, silicone is a hybrid between organic polymers (plastics) and inorganic silicates, and therefore has properties of both plastic and artificial rubber.
  • One of the starting materials for silicone is silicon, the production of which from quartz sand or quartz gravel is very energy-intensive. The finely ground, pure silicon is then reacted with chloromethane to produce so-called chloromethylsilanes, which are the starting materials for all silicone products. However, chloromethane is not an unproblematic substance.
  • Although silicone can theoretically be recycled, this always involves down-cycling. In addition, silicone recycling is virtually non-existent in practice, so that the corresponding products end up in thermal recycling or landfills, depending on the given infrastructure.

 

The new closure

Heinz has now developed a new closure for its squeeze ketchup bottle caps that no longer requires silicone. The new closure

  • is made of mono-material,
  • is fully recyclable,
  • required eight years of research and development with more than 185,000 man-hours and a $1.2 million investment, according to the company.

 

Small step toward a big goal

The new squeeze bottle cap is part of Heinz’s goal to reduce virgin plastic consumption by 20 percent by 2030 and to make all packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

Small steps also help, especially when they address packaging components that were previously difficult to implement. The fact that “little things make a mess” becomes clear when you consider that Heinz sold one billion squeeze bottles worldwide in 2020.

Jojo de Noronha, President Kraft Heinz Northern Europe, is therefore right to say that this is only a small change, but one that has great potential impact. Because now it is possible to recycle the entire squeeze bottle.

 

Conclusion

Innovations in the area of sustainability must take place on many levels. It is not always necessarily a question of the really big thing. On the contrary, much takes place in the details. Progress is only sometimes the big leap and much more often a series of smaller steps.

Heinz’s new closure is a good step in the right direction. It is encouraging that this detail has been taken care of despite all the challenges. Its success is not least proof of how pronounced the innovative power of our industry is.

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Packaging as brand ambassador: Bio-D and Berry Global launch 100% PCR reusable bottle for cleaning products

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Packaging as brand ambassador: Bio-D and Berry Global launch 100% PCR reusable bottle for cleaning products

Thomas Reiner | 14.09.2023

UK-based Bio-D says it is one of Europe’s leading independent manufacturers of environmentally friendly cleaning products. Together with global packaging group Berry Global, the company is now launching a new bottle for its portfolio of cleaning products. The reusable container is made from 100 percent post-consumer recyclate and is itself fully recyclable. 100 percent recyclate is a statement. And the reusable solution shows that the company is thinking holistically. Above all, however, the initiative is a strong proclamation for packaging as the most important brand ambassador.

 

 

Based in Hull, England, “Bio-D Company Ltd” says its range aims to provide highly effective, easy-to-use products that offer consumers an affordable, natural alternative to conventional cleaning products. The products are manufactured entirely domestically and are certified by Cruelty Free International and the Vegan Society.

To visibly and effectively communicate its claim to the outside world, Bio-D has worked with Berry Global to develop a range of bottles that document the company’s holistic and environmentally friendly approach.

 

The bottles in detail

Characteristics according to the company:

  • Material – The bottles are made entirely of post consumer recyclate (PCR).
  • Recycling – The bottles are fully recyclable.
  • Reusable – The bottles can be refilled multiple times at over 300 refill outlets across the country. To ensure this, the design is focused on a high level of performance, especially in terms of durability and longevity.

The range includes 750ml, 1-liter and 5-liter bottles for a range of Bio-D liquid products, including laundry detergent, fabric softener, dishwasher detergent, dishwashing detergent and home and garden cleaning products.

 

Consistent: Packaging as brand ambassador

Bio-D’s move exemplifies the importance of packaging as the most important brand message. It is visible, haptic and effective. And it plays to its strengths even without large marketing budgets. That’s why packaging is an unbeatable trump card, especially for products that can’t or shouldn’t be advertised at great expense.

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Reusable bags for e-commerce on trend: The case studies of Tchibo and no-boxx

Image source: Tchibo

Reusable bags for e-commerce on trend: The case studies of Tchibo and no-boxx

Thomas Reiner | 09.08.2023

English start-up no-boxx has launched a reusable (and trackable) shipping bag for online and offline retail in the UK. Tchibo (Germany), on the other hand, is now testing its own reusable shipping solution for the second time, also in the form of a bag. The fact that established D2C companies as well as start-ups are looking at the trend shows a key factor in the packaging sector. This is because the demand for reusable solutions in e-commerce is continuously increasing. The proposal for the new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation will also continue to build pressure in this area. Both no-boxx and Tchibo want to score points with their solutions for reducing disposable packaging waste and regarding over-packaging or the transported empty volume. Open questions arise above all in the area of the return- and recycling scheme of reusable packaging.

 

 

UK-based start-up no-boxx says it is on a mission to eliminate the need for disposable packaging. Instead, it aims to use reusable packaging solutions.

With 900 stores and more than 24,200 retail depots as well as national online stores, Tchibo is an established player. However, start-up and big player are dealing with one and the same question: how an effective alternative packaging solution can not only be offered in e-commerce, but also returned via stationary retail.

 

The reusable bag from No-boxx.

  • The reusable bag is made of rPET.
  • It is offered in three sizes to avoid over-packaging or empty volume due to inappropriate packaging sizes.
  • According to no-boxx, the bag can be used more than 20 times.
  • CO2 savings are said to amount to 87 percent even with the second use.
  • Damaged reusable bags are fully recycled and used to produce new reusable bags, according to the startup.
  • The switch from disposable to reusable packaging is also expected to reduce waste.

 

The tracking aspect

  • In the No-Boxx case, the lifecycle of the reusable solution can be tracked via codes and a dedicated web application.
  • Consumers and retailers track the status of their delivery or return via the code.
  • In addition, no-boxx promises to visualize the positive environmental impact of reusable packaging compared to the single-use alternative.

 

Sticking point: returns

  • No-boxx asks users to return their packaging to the online or stationary retailer after each delivery.
  • To this end, it has entered into a partnership with the parcel station operator “InPost Lockers.” Consumers can return their reusable bags there 24/7 and document the return by scanning a QR code.

 

Return at Tchibo

  • Tchibo is currently testing 26,000 reusable bags with 80% recycled plastic that can be recycled again at the end of their service life.
  • Customers are being selected at random. Thus, the switch to the reusable solution is free of charge and deposit-free.
  • Tchibo had already tested the sustainable shipping option for the first time in 2020 as part of the praxpack funding project from the Environment Ministry for Education and Research together with Otto and the Avocadostore.
  • This was followed in 2022 by another test run in Austria with dm, Thalia, and INTERSPORT, among others. During this phase, initial experience was gathered on stores as a return location.
  • But how does the reusable bag get back to Tchibo? The empty bag can be returned to the Tchibo stores or folded and dropped in the mailbox. If customers have a return, it can be handed in as usual at a post office.

 

Basically, the question remains how strong the “call to action” is in the end. Experience shows that it is difficult to recover relevant quantities of reusable packaging without a deposit. According to Tchibo, however, the return rate was already “excellent” in 2020, and amounted to 81 percent. This gives reason to hope for a lasting success of the model.

Last but not least, Tchibo’s established logistics and partner network will play a crucial part in its success in terms of returns, a plus for established players as opposed to start-ups, which first have to build up the relevant network.

 

The CO2-crux of return schemes

The CO2 balance remains a question mark with regard to the return of reusable bags, whether through the InPost Locker principle of No-Boxx or the multichannel model of Tschibo. Yet this aspect is also crucial for reusable. A real statement on the CO2 balance cannot be made without knowing the energy source used in the transport vehicles and the kilometers driven for the return and redistribution after cleaning.

 

More reusable

However, the solution is heading in the right direction – at least as far as the objectives of the regulators are concerned. Anyone who takes a look at the EU Commission’s proposal for the new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation will quickly see that reusable packaging has been chosen by politicians as the ideal way to achieve greater sustainability.

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