Choose to Reuse: First ever Closed-loop Reusable Food Delivery Packaging in Hong Kong

Since October 2022, WWF-Hong Kong has partnered with foodpanda Hong Kong to kick off a first pilot programme for reusable food delivery packaging. In the pilot phase, foodpanda provided 8,000 reusable food containers which can be returned to 9 different collection points – in the form of reverse vending machines. 

Funded by the Environment and Conservation Fund of Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department, WWF-Hong Kong partnered with foodpanda Hong Kong and launched the first-ever closed-loop reusable container programme in Hong Kong

This programme aims to provide more sustainable options for the people of Hong Kong to reduce plastic consumption. Single-use plastics (SUPs) are being increasingly produced and used globally, taking up half of plastic production each year wherein approximately 36% of all plastic produced is used in packaging, especially for food and beverage containers. 

Currently, only relatively small amounts are collected and recycled, contrary to the concept of circular economy. 

At the start of the pilot, the 9 collection machines were located at prime locations in Hong Kong Island. Reusable containers came in 2 different shapes and sizes (1,380ml and 650ml) to accommodate different types of dishes offered by each restaurant.

Does reusable packaging work in a food delivery system?

When ordering their food delivery through foodpanda, consumers can choose the dishes with reusable container options from selected restaurants, applicable for both delivery and pick-up orders. 

When returning the container to the collection machine, consumers would get back the HK$10 deposit to their Octopus wallet – a popular contactless e-payment wallet in Hong Kong that provides rebates. Users will also receive a reminder to return the containers through email and SMS. 

Once the containers are collected, they will go through a cleaning process which strictly follows the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) programme, based on global standards on hygiene and safety. 

Challenges: Low user rate and return rate of containers

As this is the first pilot programme addressing eco-friendly options for takeaway or delivery food in Hong Kong, the lack of socialization and trust towards this option likely led to a low user rate. 

Another reason was likely due to a relatively low deposit (HK$10) cost. While the rationale to set the deposit at a lower rate was to encourage and attract more users, this had unintentionally resulted in customers not returning the containers at all or stocking up the containers before returning it in bulk. 

In the first phase of the Choose to Reuse Programme, over 16,900 containers were used with 40+ restaurant partners joining the programme. The overall feedback given by the customers was positive, they expressed their willingness to participate in the programme. 

Apart from that, there were also some inputs that could improve the execution of the programme in the next phase:

  1. Some orders still come in single-use containers even when the customers chose the reusable container option
  2. It is hard to find the Choose to Reuse restaurant partners on the foodpanda app due to limited marketing slots from foodpanda’s side
  3. Include more restaurants and cover more areas

Moving on to Phase 2 

For the next phase of implementation, the Choose to Reuse Programme will be more focused on public education, to increase the awareness of choosing more eco-friendly options in everyday life and support the uptake of similar pilots… + the programme set up more frequent email and SMS reminders. 

Entering Phase 2 from 1st September 2023 until 31st July 2024, the programme started addressing feedback for improvement and exploring the possibility of including non-food delivery platform orders so that users can borrow the containers at restaurants or other locations without ordering food through foodpanda’s app.

“We hope to collaborate with shopping malls or MTR (The Mass Transit Railway, a major public transport in Hong Kong) to provide more areas to test this new model,” said Natalie Leung, Conservation Officer, Oceans Pollution WWF-Hong Kong.

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