Single use plastics resist circularity. Each year, Australians throw away one million tonnes of single-use plastic, including 70 billion pieces of soft plastics like food wrappers, and 1.8 billion single-use, hot beverage cups. Coffee cups, embedded with hidden plastics, are estimated to be the second-largest contributor to litter waste after plastic bottles, and as the collapse of REDcycle showed, soft plastic is not easy to recycle.
While efforts are being made to reduce the manufacture and use of ‘problematic’ single use plastic and develop alternatives like bioplastic packaging, others are interested in shifting away from a culture of disposability to one of reuse. Reusable packaging systems point to a different strategy: upstream innovation that eliminates single use plastics across the whole supply chain.
As part of a wider Australian Research Council-funded project ‘Investigating Innovative Waste Economies: Redrawing the circular economy’, this research looked at Melbourne-based business Returnr who has designed a range of reusable stainless-steel packaging for grocery home delivery and for workplace lunch and coffee takeaway.
Read the full case study here.