While there have been numerous innovations showing incremental improvements in disposable cups end-of-life solutions to date these have proved to be highly fragmented and uncoordinated to hold impact at scale.
Eco-solutions not only need be commercially viable and globally scalable but easy to adopt, holistic in nature, and critically have an incentive mechanism that encourages open-collaboration, and allows anyone to participate. An ecosystem where people all over the world can take part and are incentivised by the system to do so.
Project Blue Ocean is that solution. A solution that falls into two parts; 1/ Packaging Marketplace, and 2/ Recovery Ecosystem.
The Packaging Marketplace matches producers of circular customer packaging with foodservice retail customers. Products like certified compostable cups, lids, sleeves, stirrers, straws, cutlery, plates, food wraps, milk bottles, carry bags along with reusable products made from sustainable materials. Cup materials not only include advanced biobased polymers like PLA but other innovative solutions like water-based, dispersion coated barrier films that when added to natural cup stock eliminates the need for plastic coatings.
Product producers from different regions of the world with combined capacity to supply hundreds of millions of cups monthly have been identified and have expressed support of the Blue Ocean project. The marketplace will operate with very low fees.
The Recovery Ecosystem incentivizes the use of reusable and compostable packaging and helps facilitate the use/establishment of the infrastructure to collect and wash reusables and organically recycle both packaging and leftover food.
The ecosystem allows for predetermined, near-instant reimbursements to customers as reward for circular behaviours. For example when placing a compostable coffee cup into a Blue Ocean PreCycle recovery bin. Reimbursement levels are negotiated between each retail partner and Blue Ocean and range from just a couple of cents per cup to any level that a retailer sees benefit in rewarding for a particular behaviour.
Each reimbursement is seamlessly transacted at point-of-recovery ie when a user places a cup, purchased from a retail partner, into a Blue Ocean bin. On each occasion a user is reimbursed/rewarded with BlueO tokens, Blue Ocean simultaneously debits the retailer the predetermined amount.
To achieve its mission of eliminating waste creation and go big, fast, Blue Ocean has a five-pronged enabling strategy:
- Shift single-use plastics to compostable, totally benign, nature-based packaging. Packaging that carries seeds of its own circular transformation
- As a highly-practical baseline create a single organic recovery stream that caters for the majority of post-consumer packaging and food waste eliminating the need for sorting, washing and separate bins. A system that can recover everything that is served to a consumer
- Adopt a systems approach with ubiquitous recovery touch-points. With some 50% of cups taken off retail premises, it is critical that recovery transcends retail brands and is made widely available in office blocks, train stations, airports...
- Build/connect with intelligent & transparent collection through use of IoT, identity verification systems, fill/weight sensors, and algorithm-based logistics
- Use BlueO tokens to create powerful network effects by giving people ownership of creating their desired future. Ensuring participants have a vested interest in promoting the ecosystem.
At centre of the Blue Ocean business model is the tokenised incentive mechanism, where tokens, called BlueO, will serve as an access ticket to the ecosystem. Tokens can be used to buy products from retail partners, virtual goods or simply held on to to benefit from token growth.
For retailers the value proposition is compelling. Firstly, they get a new way to engage with consumers at both point-of-purchase and at point-of-recovery (when cups are returned to Blue Ocean bins), secondly they get a systems approach to detoxify their end-of-use value chains in the interests of sustainable life, while lastly, they get to capture additional revenues and or reduce costs by doing things in more productive ways.
While it's abundantly clear that we’ve exceeded planetary boundaries for waste creation solutions sit at our fingertips. Move away from petroleum-based packaging and incentivize responsible consumption without compromise on convenience. The Chinese city of Suzhou, provides insight as to how this could play out as an 'overnight' solution. The city’s municipality has mandated all restaurants send food waste to a particular compost operator in order to secure their food licence for the following year. In turn, the compost is used to grow high-value insect protein for aquaculture feed.
While this is an adapt or die strategy if the same principle was applied to Blue Ocean ecosystem foodservice waste would not only be eliminated with near zero additional cost it would also create a thriving industry where packaging and food waste no longer litters the environment but enriches it.