Meal deliveries switch to zero waste!

Posted on 18 February 2021.

California-based start-up Dispatch Goods reduces the waste generated by home meal deliveries and take-away sales by simply replacing single-use containers with reusable stainless-steel containers.

Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Foodora, Just Eat... The meal delivery market has exploded over the last few years. And its success has grown during the lockdowns to limit the spread of Covid-19 imposed by many countries across the world.

But what about all those single-use containers and the packaging used to protect and transport the meals? None are reusable or recyclable. Worse still, some of them, especially those used in fast food chains, contain chemicals - perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS) - that are extremely persistent and have potentially harmful effects on our bodies and the environment. Even containers labeled biodegradable can be problematic, since they may only decompose under specific conditions.

To reduce the considerable amount of waste generated by home deliveries and takeaway sales, California-based start-up Dispatch Goods - founded in 2019 by Lindsey Hoell - came up with the idea of replacing traditional single-use containers with reusable stainless-steel containers and a collection system.

From the business market...

The start-up first partnered with San Francisco-based companies and nearby restaurants, initially focusing on the B2B market.

The City by the Bay, which in 2002 set itself the ambitious goal of recovering 100% of its waste, passed strong and effective legislation that successfully created a genuine recycling and composting culture. More than anywhere else in the United States, businesses there are keen to find sustainable and practical alternatives to single-use disposable products.

When ordering, employees of these companies specify that they want their meals to be served in reusable containers. Having eaten the contents, they drop them off at one of the collection points in the offices. Dispatch Goods picks up the containers and cleans and disinfects them before returning them to the restaurants.

With the Covid-19 pandemic and an increasing trend towards teleworking, the start-up had to change its model a little so it could collect containers close to its customers' homes. So, it set up partnerships with meal delivery companies - like DoorDash - to offer reusable meal delivery containers. The container is collected by Dispatch Goods, cleaned and returned to the restaurant to be used again. Although the project is only in the test phase, it will enable Dispatch Goods to target the mainstream market. 

… to the general public

Now it’s the turn of individual customers to order a takeaway meal or have a partner restaurant deliver a meal – either via the Dispatch Goods app or directly from the establishment. Once again, the customer selects the reusable option at the checkout and drops off the containers at a collection point - this time located in their neighborhood.

Based on the same model as selective waste collection, the start-up makes regular rounds to collect containers. It now plans to offer a subscription that will allow San Francisco-based members to benefit from a special delivery and pick-up service.