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Local distribution using reusable intermediate containers

In the past, food and drink were distributed using intermediaries that had their own reusable containers.

Photo of Lorne Mitchell
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How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

All of the use cases show instances where the product packaging is single-use and where there are no obvious intermediary containers to distribute the product locally.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

How can we redesign the distribution of food, drink and household goods that use one-time plastic packaging so that we design in more multi-use intermediary distribution systems that allow consumers to bring their own containers - and hence cut plastic waste.

Tell us about yourself

Business Designer. Engineer. User of one-time plastic containers who is thinking hard about how not to!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Purvish Shah

I appreciate your thoughts. To extend and give a further direction, do you think we can list down all one-time use plastics and then give priority to them considering the impact they have on waste and then think of how we can reduce that?

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Purvish Shah Great to see your insights! I would recommend focusing on the use cases for the challenge -

Photo of Lorne Mitchell

Hi Helen, I share your need, Purvish, for information on the wider analysis of one-time use plastic. I understand IDEO's need for focus to crack the problem described in the use case. However, we need more education, generally in this area if we are going to be effective. How does IDEO suggest we do that without losing this gem of an idea in the mechanical process? I hope you have a way to do this given the number of competitions you run! Best, Lorne

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Lorna, There is a degree of flexibility and the sponsors are always open to anything unusual, out of the box etc. Hypothetically, for a local distribution model, I would focus on the use cases and then mention other applications (basically adopting a t-shaped approach - specific and mentioning the broad). In the ideas phase, I would recommend the same approach - brainstorming and submitting all ideas that come into your head and then focusing on a select few. But, that is my approach and one I have seen work reasonably well on the platform because you can never be one hundred percent sure what will resonate with the community, the sponsors and the judges. I hope that makes sense and helps.

Photo of Lorne Mitchell

Yes, Purvish. I think that is a great idea. It is so important that we understand the scope and scale of the problem - particularly when we are dealing with so many different types of plastic waste. I wonder how we would prioritise them?

Photo of Helen

I absolutely agree that reusable containers need to be part of the solution. Some consumers already employ these habits - they take their own jars etc to local markets and co-op stores to buy mostly dry goods (flour, lentils, beans etc), cleaning products (washing powder, dish-soap, shampoo, conditioner etc) and vegetables. This behaviour is mostly limited to these types of retail outlets and particularly environmentally-conscious consumers. Why haven't these practices gone mainstream yet? Perhaps there is some scope for research on both the supplier and consumer side as to the benefits and problems of such an approach. If we can understand why this behaviour hasn't already been taken up in the general community, we might be able to design a system so that it is more easily implementable for general consumption. For example, what are the drawbacks? Is it inconvenient? Does it require more time due to the need to wash containers? What would be the benefits of using multiple-use containers for consumers who aren't particularly environmentally conscious?

Photo of Lorne Mitchell

Great ideas, Helen. I think that research into this area, with a choice of different "intermediate" containers for different purposes - maybe some of which were even made from plastic - would be a definite step forwards in this one-time-use plastic economy that the FMCG industry has designed for us.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Lorne,

Great insights! Have you seen replacing non reusable small plastic sachets in Senegal by Yann Hirlimann ? It might give you a few insights coming into the ideas phase, which opens in 6 days time.

Photo of Lorne Mitchell

Thanks, Kate. I've looked at that. It is exactly what I am talking about here - and is a great example. Thanks for pointing it out.