Unlocking the reuse and refill potential of consumer packaging
Around the world, approximately 40 percent of plastic waste comes from food packaging, and much of that packaging is single-use plastics. That’s why shifting from single use packaging to reusable packaging has the potential to dramatically reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
Dizzie, formerly Good Club, is a UK-based packaging service provider, putting sustainability at the heart of its ethos. The company had previously used a closed-loop reusable and returnable packaging system to deliver goods to UK homes but now works with other retailers to enable them to make the transition to reusable packaging. This would maximise Dizzie’s impact and fully deliver on its sustainability ambitions.
Our experts in consumer insight, sustainable product design, and product manufacturing, worked with Dizzie to research how a future refill packaging system would work. It was critical that Dizzie made any solution reusable which meant balancing the needs of the planet with retailers and the supply chain. Together with Dizzie, we conducted user research to help shape insights into opportunities, resulting in a set of concept designs for a new closed loop reusable packaging system. We then helped develop a route to one of the concepts – ‘zero waste’ containers – that focused on stacking efficiencies and nesting of reusable pots throughout the supply chain.
The result of this work is a set of stackable, nestable zero waste containers that Dizzie is building its business around. The pots are central to Dizzie’s packaging services and will save over one million pieces of plastic and reduce carbon emissions by more than 139,000 kilograms per year, or the equivalent of the annual carbon emissions of 30 cars. Dizzie is now well on its way to fulfilling its mission to help retailers transition to reusable packaging.
- Led by our industrial design team, we helped Dizzie to understand the efficiencies of stacking/nesting primary and secondary packaging and how this could be achieved with a tailored design for zero waste.
- Enabled Dizzie to create a vision for zero waste that could be used in future investment presentations.
- We worked at speed, developing detailed user/product journeys, to identify a refill system from multiple options in under 14 weeks.
Delivering groceries without single-use plastics
The grocery industry relies heavily on single-use plastics to package, ship, and deliver its goods. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that the grocery industry has a large carbon and waste footprint. On average, plastic bags are used for 25 minutes, yet take between 20 to 50 years to biodegrade. The top 10 UK supermarkets produced 897,000 tonnes of single-use plastic in 2019 – equivalent to nearly 35,000 bin lorries.
While leading grocery retailers have agreed to reduce their use, another approach is to eliminate plastic packaging waste altogether with reusable or refillable systems. With these models, retailers could deliver groceries in reusable containers, which could be picked up again after use, cleaned, refilled, and redelivered.
Dizzie was already piloting a reusable packaging system, however, this wasn’t as optimal or sophisticated as it could be. It was using off-the-shelf plastic containers for grocery goods, which it packed in heavy boxes and secured with paper filler and zip ties. As a result, when returned, deliveries were irregularly packed and resulted in a lot of shipping air, meaning additional return trips as well as higher costs and emissions. So, Dizzie sought our help reinventing its packaging for this closed-loop system.
Learning from closed-loop system users
Our design researchers and sustainability experts explored how users across the value chain experience the current packaging, competitor systems, and what the requirements would be for a future solution. Our research found that groceries often required excessive wrapping and filler when picked and packed in the warehouse, which detracted from the end-user experience, harmed the brand, and the planet too.
Led by our industrial design team, we brought together expertise in user research and product journey mapping, concept development, materials research, industrial design, and supply chain expertise. At every step, the team applied principles of the circular economy.
After learning about Dizzie’s operational challenges, we conducted user research with end users, warehouse workers, and delivery and returns partners to understand their pain points with the packaging services providers current reusable plastic containers and packaging.
We discovered that end users found the paper filler used to keep goods safe in transit didn’t square with Dizzie’s sustainability positioning. Because the variably sized off-the-shelf pots didn’t stack neatly in the box, packers often taped them up to secure the contents. And since the shipping crates didn’t nest neatly within each other, the couriers were making additional trips to collect them, increasing costs and carbon footprint.
The investigations led the team to zero in on the most relevant opportunities to inform packaging design. Our designers looked to explore routes for stacking/nesting zero waste pots and simplifying the portfolio of packaging to standardised sizes that would work with one common lid. Based on cost implications and the fact that its current off the shelf containers were not suitable for reuse, the team recommended moving to high density polyethylene (HDPE) pots. These were made from a sustainably sourced plastic material that could be made from recovered Dizzie packaging streams in its supply chain.
Becoming a leader in sustainable packaging
The result of the collaboration is a set of stackable nestable zero waste containers that Dizzie have built its business around. All its goods are now delivered in these refillable pots, saving over one million pieces of plastic and reducing carbon emissions by more than 139,000 kilograms per year.
Our work with Dizzie demonstrates how design, applied by multi-disciplinary teams, can rapidly take an existing packaging system and innovate to make it better for people, profit, and planet. There’s always more value – be it monetary, or planetary – to be uncovered, by reinventing and reimagining how things work.