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Smart/Green Vending

Our concept provides dispensing (“vending”) machines for consumers to utilize special reusable containers for snacks.

Photo of Joseph Meiring
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Millions of small snacks are consumed around the world every year. The most widespread of these snacks are small candies, either chocolates, hard candy or other forms of small, mouth or bite-sized edible treats. In many places around the world, these small snacks are wrapped in a way that is not recycle-friendly – a small mixed-format wrapper which has a plastic outer layer and a metal foil or plastic (polypropylene) film to preserve freshness. Some of these wrappers also have a third layer of plastic in between these two layers. 

Due to the mixed-format of the wrapper, as well as their small size, these wrappers are not recycled and end up in the litter or waste stream. While their individual size is quite small, when added up, they make up tons of unrecycled waste per year.

Following circular design concepts, we will eliminate this waste at the source rather than trying to develop new mechanisms for recycling these wrappers.

Our concept provides a strategy for eliminating plastic wrappers for these types of bite-size consumables. Our plan is to attack this problem with a combination of consumer behavior change, “old-style” technology and “new-style” technology.  

Similar to other approaches for dispensing bulk goods, our concept provides dispensing (“vending”) machines for consumers to utilize special reusable containers for snacks such as candies, granola, yogurt covered raisins, nuts, and other natural/healthy bite-sized consumables. The old-style technology is the vending machines for these consumables. The new-style technology will include embedded RFID sensors in the reusable, recycled plastic  containers that will provide a snack subscription service and allow point-of-use dispensing of consumables without the exchange of money. Mobile and web apps will allow the users to manage their snack subscription. The vending machines will also have the ability to dispense a wax paper sleeve or bag for consumers who are not carrying, or have yet to purchase the more permanent reusable container that is part of the subscription. 

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The subscription model will provide added benefits 

FOR CONSUMERS

  • Offers portion control.The new dispenser can deliver portions based on the consumer’s desired calorie for the snack, with the default given as 100 Calories. 
  • Offers a mix of different snacks to create their own snack mix 
  • Offers the ability to monitor consumer’s snack consumption, including calories, most consumed type of snack, snack consumption habit, etc.
  • Learn more about the products they are purchasing.
  • Potential new offering suggestions

FOR VENDORS

  • The ability to gauge product demand on a more real time basis

FOR SNACK MANUFACTURER/PROVIDERS

  • Increased access to the lucrative segments of customers
  • The small wax bags could be printed and used for branding or as
    promotional coupons that could be redeemed in partner retail spaces.

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The key stakeholders for a successful implementation of our concept are:

1.  End user/consumers
Primarily parents with young children and young people. We found these two groups are receptive to new technology and consume more snacks on the go.  They also want to have easy access to fresh, healthy snacks for their growing children and themselves. In the meantime, this group is concerned about environmental issues and want to be more eco-friendly.  This consumer audience will embrace this concept when we combine our approach with a marketing campaign raising awareness of the amount of non-recycled plastic waste produced by bite-size consumables.

2. Candy or snack food manufacturers and the wrapper manufacturers
Snack food manufacturers and the companies that supply them with wrappers are one of the more important stakeholders.  Unless the solution we provide has benefits for these stakeholders, scaling of this solution will not be successful.  These stakeholders will only be brought on board if the solution provides benefits in terms of cost savings (or cost equality at least) or improved market perception of the product or company.

We can show the top-line and bottom-line benefits for these companies.  Top-line growth will occur by opening new target audiences with eco-friendly young adults, and  parents with young children.  Bottom-line savings will occur with reduced packaging costs by switching to packaging that encloses more units per volume.

3. Small, local businesses that sell bulk, healthy and all-natural snack options that would like to take on a role as a vending partner
These businesses operate on tight margins and we will have to demonstrate that our concept will be widely adopted in order to gain adoption by these businesses.

4. Organizations and businesses that provide space for the installation of dispensing machines
We expect to initially target urban centers where an understanding of green technology and the benefits of recycling are more widespread.  Universities in these urban centers are also a target.

5. Manufacturers of dispensing machines
We expect to need funding to work with manufacturers to develop a suitable dispensing machine or modify an existing machines. The amount of necessary capital investment can be minimized through partnerships with existing vending machine companies.

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Scaling up

The initial approach is to gain early adopters among young parents who live in urban centers  Once this adoption takes place, growth to other areas can build on the early success.  Data showing the impact of reduced waste in local communities as well as the idea’s spread through social media will increase future growth.

Scaling up manufacturing of the dispensing machines should not be a challenge as a competent manufacturer will be chosen.  The technology aspects of the solution will also scale well.  The biggest scaling challenge will be the consumable distribution.  Suppliers in local areas may have to be developed for each growth area unless a distributor with a national network will sign on to the idea.

Idea Title

Smart/Green Vending “Making candy an even better treat”

Company / Organization Name

Our group name is Candywrapper, but we will choose a more appropriate name as our group evolves.

Website

We haven’t developed a website yet.

Where are you / your team located?

The Boston area of Massachusetts, USA

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

This idea eliminates the plastic items by providing reusable container, or recyclable wax paper sleeve/bag, for dispensing these bite-size consumables.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Wrappers for small, bite-size consumables, such as candy, nuts, trail mix and other on-the-go snack foods.

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

We expect to initially deploy our idea in urban centers in the northeastern US but it has applicability worldwide.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

The initial approach is to gain early adopters among young parents who live in urban centers Once this adoption takes place, growth to other areas can build on the early success. Data showing the impact of reduced waste in local communities as well as the idea’s spread through social media will increase future growth. Scaling up manufacturing of the dispensing machines should not be a challenge as a competent manufacturer will be chosen. Technology aspects of the solution will also scale well.

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.

A challenge to moving our idea from concept to implementation is to begin engaging the stakeholders identified above and provide funding to develop the technology and dispensing machines. Working with the Accelerator Program will help us accelerate our idea past the concept stage through additional funding, expert advice and contacts in the Circular Economy.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

We met at the Boston IDEO chapter meeting at a session on Circular Design. Our idea grew out of several brainstorming sessions with our group that evolved over several months, based around the concept of removing small-form plastic waste.

Tell us about your work experience

Eve: Experienced Software Engineer Joe: Multidisciplinary Designer Jeffrey: Student. Cognitive Science Major Jaimin: Digital Strategist Chris: Develops Software, Electronic, Mechanical Products

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

An Informal group who met through Boston/IDEO. All share a passion for the circular economy and solving problems associated with plastic waste.

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Photo of Lauren Ito
Team

Hi Joe Meiring 

As Refinement Phase quickly comes to a close in 7 HOURS, I want to remind you that the following must be submitted by tonight, August 31st at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

1. Submit the Refinement Questions Form online that was sent again via email yesterday evening--we have not yet received this from you. These questions are mandatory for Top Ideas consideration, so this should be your first priority in the final stretch.

2. A secondary priority, which is optional, is to update your Refinement Phase post. I see you've already updated your concept on the platform. But please share any additional information, photos, and documentation of your progress throughout this Phase!

Looking forward to reviewing and celebrating the amazing work you've achieved this Refinement Phase!

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