Search the Otago Polytechnic website
Daniela Handal Calderon observation images

Waste not, want not

Food events provide an opportunity to reduce the volume of single use packaging going to landfill.

Convenience consumption of food is growing rapidly, and single use packaging of food is a ubiquitous part of our lifestyle. Yet single use packaging is also an extremely inefficient use of resources and contributes to the volume of solid waste. Postgraduate design student Daniela Handal Calderon investigated whether reusable containers would be a viable alternative.

Dani began with observations: what types of food packaging are in use, and what do consumers do with it. Much ends up in landfill, even if it is recyclable. People are confused about how to recycle properly, and food waste sometimes contaminates a recycling bin. Dani also interviewed 16 experts, five food vendors, a chef and the person responsible for waste management at a food event. She learned that plastic is cheapest, so some vendors will keep using it while they can. Most are already using more eco-friendly alternatives and are open to continue that as long as logistics and cost were feasible.

Several open loop systems are possible, where consumers return reusable containers to the same food retailer, to one of a group of participating retailers, or to a third party which owns and manages containers for retailers. Dani focused on the simpler closed loop environment of a food event, where food is sold and consumed at the event so the containers are not taken away. She designed three different reusable containers, a brand "Loop", a collection bin for used containers, and signage so consumers would know what to do with their containers.

Dani received a scholarship to pursue her concept at a Co.Starters event. She is now developing the business model with Ingrid Mődinger, working towards a pilot.

Sep 2020

Image credit: Daniela Handal Calderon, used with permission