Takeaway has become an integral part of our lives. But despite the convenience of such a service, frequent users have to face its drawbacks: the contents of the food can accidentally leak, the dish gets cold, and the packaging does not always correspond to the portion size. Researchers from Kaunas University of Technology together with businesses and citizens have created a takeaway box that solves all these problems and is completely plastic-free.
“The citizens of Kaunas, with the help of professionals in their field and guided by scientists, are starting a real revolution in the world of takeaway food. Everyone can innovate,” says Aelita Zabulione, junior researcher at the Food Institute of Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), Lithuania.
During the lab session organized by the European Institute for Innovation and Technology Food Community (EIT FOOD), ordinary citizens tried to discover the shortcomings of the currently used takeaway packaging.
In the workshop, they worked together with packaging experts from “Spaudos departamentas” and representatives from the restaurant “Daugirdas” located in Kaunas, Lithuania.
During this session, the idea was born – to co-create solutions to eliminate the shortcomings of ordinary takeaway packaging.
Citizens contributed to the creative process
The start of the project was a three-course dinner attended by a group of 16 people aged 22 to 60. During dinner, people rated their food packaging and shared their insights.
The plastic packaging used during the dinner perfectly reflected the typical shortcomings of takeout boxes. First, it was difficult to adapt the packaging to a certain size. Second, the portions of the food were not well enough separated from each other. Finally, it was not clear how to dispose of the used packaging – wash it, recycle it or throw it away with household waste.
During the dinner, the participants shared their experience that even after the simplest business lunch, an impressive pile of packaging remains in the office, which later ends up in landfills for hundreds of years. Therefore, the most essential part of the project was the search for sustainable packaging materials.
The main complaint of the participants was the incorrect temperature of the food. Considering several food delivery companies operating in the city using different delivery equipment, it was decided that it was almost impossible to expect to get piping hot food.
Therefore, project participants pointed to the need to create a package in which food prepared in a slow, nutrient-saving way can be easily reheated at home without the need to transfer it from the package. Cardboard is the most suitable material for this.
Food in cardboard boxes can be warmed in the oven
Cardboard can be recycled up to 6 times and after applying a certain processing method it is possible to make a cardboard package that can withstand heating in the oven.
This type of cardboard is covered with a special non-flammable material that takes up less than 10 percent of the weight. In addition, the designed packages have specially adapted inserts – tabs that allow you to easily adjust the size of the box and separate the necessary food components.
The boxes designed during the workshop are available in three sizes, allowing for a more economical and sustainable use of resources and making the packaging adaptable for different meals. To preserve the aesthetic appearance of the food during transportation, a special cover was created – it holds the boxes in place, preventing them from rolling and moving. The sleeve weighs less than a regular paper bag.
At the user’s request, clear instructions are printed on the packages, which contain information on how they should be recycled, how long and at what temperature they can be heated.
“There is also a special supporting frame that prevents the lid from bending and spoiling the wonderful view of the restaurant’s masterpiece – after all, we also eat with our eyes,” emphasizes the KTU Zabulionė researcher.
This innovation benefits not only the consumer but also the restaurant. The cardboard is very suitable for various types of printing – the restaurant logo or other important information can be displayed on the boxes.
In addition, the packs are designed in such a way that when empty, they easily fit inside each other and save storage space. After the packaging is used, it can be sent for recycling or composted.
“Soon, these boxes created by Lithuanian consumers and businesses will be one of the packaging options when ordering food at home,” Zabulione is convinced.
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