How Data and Algorithm lead to Sustainable Take-Out Food Packaging

To make take-out food packaging more sustainable, German company Vytal relies on artificial intelligence and algorithms. This is not only benefiting the restaurants, but also the customers and our environment.

In many areas of the packaging industry, solutions must continue to be found to ensure more sustainability in this sector.  Consumer beverage packaging, for example, accounts for up to 48% of urban solid waste and up to 26% of marine garbage. Traditional recycling and reuse schemes via cash deposits are unfortunately outdated. They result in higher prices, are cumbersome and not conducive, as many consumers do not return their containers quickly enough or at all.

Digital technologies and AIs are supposed to lend a hand here. Via special platforms, suppliers borrow packaging that consumers can easily take with them and return. The German company Vytal was one of the pioneers in this process. . They manufactured food containers entirely according to their ideas and the customers‘ needs. Then they lend them to take-out food providers on a pay-per-use basis.

Vytal’s Prediction Algorithm

Vytal’s packaging is printed with a machine-readable QR code. It ensures that the company can collect valuable data on products along the entire supply chain. Vytal then feeds this data into a machine-learning algorithm that uses it to make predictions about partners‘ needs and, based on this, creates load-balancing routes for the exchange and delivery of the required packaging between partners.

Using these predictions, Vytal can control the call-offs of partner restaurants and optimize logistics planning. The algorithm predicts how many containers each partner will need in the next seven days. Based on this, a work order is automatically created in Vytal’s system. This order then moves into the route planning system and is automatically sent to the suppliers responsible on that day.

Benefits for Both Restaurants and Consumers

Due to the rather accurate prediction of the required packaging, not only fewer spare products and storage space are needed, but also ad-hoc transportation is eliminated. Furthermore, manual labor at the partners is minimized while the utilization rates of containers are maximized. It also results in a reduction of the environmental impact of the restaurants. This is because the partner restaurants need less plastic packaging, have lower packaging costs and get insight into consumer behavior through Vytal’s online platform.

Consumers also benefit from this system. They produce less waste without paying more for it, yet they don’t have much to do with the packaging itself. Since the containers are cleaned in the partner locations, the consumer only has to return them. It is as simple as it sounds!

Vytal’s Rise and what the Pandemic has to do with it

To continue to expand and optimize this model, Vytal needs to invest in three core dimensions: its user base of end consumers and restaurant partners, its online platform and data, and the production of its various packages. But Vytal’s story shows that the company is already on the right track.

Although the system was well received by consumers because it was user-friendly and quick to use, it was initially difficult to find partner restaurants. They often lacked the digital infrastructure to use online platforms and tools such as smart devices, QR code scanners, or POS systems. However, due to the 2020 pandemic, many gastronomes were forced to upgrade in terms of digitalization, so today Vytal can count more than 3500 restaurants in Germany as partners. With their innovation, the company has exchanged more than 320000 packaging between partners and consumers to date, saving more than 4.7 million disposable packaging containers.

It’s always nice to hear about efforts to protect the environment. Have you ever heard of Vytal or a similar system? Or have you ever used such packaging? 

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