Food delivery has become an integral part of our lives. However, despite the convenience of such a service, frequent users have to face its drawbacks: the contents of the food can accidentally spill, the meal gets cold, and the package does not always fit the portion size. Kaunas University of Technology researchers together with business and citizens created a lunchbox that solves all these issues 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 food delivery. Everyone can innovate,” says Aelita Zabulionė, a junior researcher at the Food Institute of Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), Lithuania.
During the laboratory session organized by the food community of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT FOOD), ordinary citizens tried to discover the shortcomings of the currently used food packaging.
In the workshop they were working together with packaging experts from “Spaudos departamentas” and representatives of the restaurant “Daugirdas” located in Kaunas, Lithuania.
During this session, the idea was born – to co-create solutions that would eliminate the shortcomings of conventional packaging.
Citizens contributed to the creative process
The start of the project was a three-course dinner attended by a group of 16 people whose ages ranged from 22 to 60 years old. Over dinner, people evaluated their food packaging and shared their insights.
The plastic packaging used during the dinner perfectly reflected the typical shortcomings of food delivery boxes. First of all, it was difficult to fit the package to a certain size. Second, the portions of the meal were not sufficiently separated from each other. Finally, it was not clear how to dispose of the used packaging – wash it, recycle it or dispose of it 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 would later end 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 wrong temperature of the meal. Considering the several food delivery companies operating in the city using various transport devices, it was decided that it is almost impossible to expect to receive steaming hot food.
Therefore, the project participants indicated the need to create a package in which food, prepared in a slow, nutrient-saving way, can be easily heated at home, without the need to transfer from the package. For this, cardboard is the most suitable material.
Food in cardboard boxes can be heated in the oven
Cardboard can be recycled up to 6 times and after applying a certain processing method, it is possible to compose a cardboard package that can withstand heating in the oven.
This type of cardboard is covered with a special non-flammable material, which occupies 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 divide the necessary food ingredients.
The boxes designed during the workshop come in three sizes, allowing for 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 sleeve has been created – it holds the boxes in place, preventing them from rotating and moving. The sleeves weigh less than a regular paper bag.
According to the customer’s request, clear instructions have been 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 support frame that does not allow the lid to bend and spoil the wonderful view of the restaurant’s masterpiece – after all, we eat with our eyes,” emphasizes KTU researcher Zabulione.
This innovation benefits not only the consumer but also the restaurant. The cardboard is suitable for various types of printing – the restaurant logo or other important information can be displayed on the box.
In addition, the packages are designed in such a way that when they are empty, they fit easily into each other and save storage space. After the package is used, it can be sent for recycling or composted.
“Soon these boxes, created by Lithuanian consumers and businesses, will be one of the package options when ordering food at home,” Zabulionė is convinced.
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