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Small Portion Pod

A convenient, easy clean reusable container that assures of a discount when used at the store. Fits in the palm of your hand or your pocket.

Photo of Alan Somerfield
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There are many ideas around for containers that are designed to be kept and reused. The practical side of this for the user is that once they have finished with the container they need to take it home, clean it and refill it at home or take it with them to the store or vending dispenser to get it refilled.

In the modern busy world people prefer the convenience of the disposable package because they don't have to bother with carrying around empty containers and cleaning them.

Portion Pod is designed to minimise this 'bother' by making a container that is as easy as possible to carry around and simple to clean. It even comes with a dishwasher rack and it is a key part of the design that all surfaces drain clean when used with the stand. 

The Portion Pod is also stylish and packed with useful features so that it has value to the user who will look after it and not just throw it away.

To encourage people to use the Portion Pod in returnable, refillable models it has an RFID tag in the base that stores information that can be used to provide incentives to the conscientious user who reuses it. It could also provide trace-ability so that the 'rubbish police' could be sent after anyone who disposes of it carelessly into the environment!

The Portion Pod comes in two varieties. Firstly one for non liquids such as ketchup, butter, sandwich spreads and condiments. Secondly one for liquids such as energy drinks, fruit juice and soaps. The liquids version still opens around its waist so that it can be thoroughly cleaned inside - this is something that can't be done with a drinks bottle.

Idea Title

Portion Pod Use - Wash - Reuse Eat- Clean - Repeat

Where are you / your team located?

I'm based in Lincoln in the UK but use freelancers round the world.

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

The Portion Pod replaces single use sachets for liquid consumer products as well as many other containers that typically use a tear off lid like butter or hummus. It prevents small format packaging waste by making reuses as easy and convenient as possible. Also by building in some intelligence then if someone does throw it away carelessy it is possible to trace and fine the user for littering. That 'threat' will encourage people to do the right thing!

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Mark the cyclist would buy his energy gels in larger quantities and put a little in his Portion Pod before he leaves on his ride. Carmen would buy her butter in bulk and fill the pods with a dispenser. She would then collect, wash and reuse using the special wash stand which makes washing large numbers easy. Rajata would use the pods for her shampoo and the RFID tag would allow the store owner to give her a discount for reusing.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

Portion Pod is a global solution that can be adapted for use in developed and developing countries.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

This is a product that fits into the same market as Tupperware and all the other plastic containers for food with lids. The best way to reach the market at a scale that will have the most benefit is to develop and pilot the idea with a manufacturer and then grant them a licence to manufacture and market the product.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

The Accelerator program would allow me to make connections and get support (both technical and marketing) from industry experts. The goal of this would be to develop the design to a pilot production readiness level and develop potential customers. The Accelerator would then be able to support either the start of manufacturing by the 'Portion Pod' business or advise on licensing the idea to an existing manufacturer. Connections with providers of dispensin/refilling systems will also assist.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

An individual idea which emerged from researching this challenge and looking at all the contributions from the OpenIdeo community.

Tell us about your work experience

I am an an engineer who went to art college to study industrial design. Since then I have been designing products in a wide range of applications from showers to construction and security to plastics.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Sole Trader.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Alan,

Another interesting idea!

How would this work end-to-end? Are there certain vendors that might lend themselves to this model over others?

What technology needs to be in place for the RFID tag incentive system?

Of the examples for the three use cases, which one is the easiest to implement?

Have you seen Sustainable Sachet Replacement for Bottom of the Pyramid Families that Stops the Flow of Plastic Waste While Increasing Disposable Incomes ? I can see a connection there.

Photo of Alan Somerfield

Hi Kate,
Thanks for the questions - really helps to get the creative juices flowing!
Originally I was going design a dispensing system but decided to focus in on the package itself especially as there are some great systems out there already in development such as Sustainable Sachet Replacement for Bottom of the Pyramid Families that Stops the Flow of Plastic Waste While Increasing Disposable Incomes . I think the best use case is Rajata as she is mostly driven by economic forces and the assured incentive system guarantees that she gets the discount for reusing the Pod which is a major driver for her.
The RFID technology is well known and would be part of the dispensing machine. When it fills a pod it matches the serial number of the to the users details (probably via a pin) and charges a lower price when there is a match.

Cheers, Alan

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