Development of durable and UV-resistant hemp reinforced polypropylene composite for vacuum forming of reusable food containers
Earthware Reusables Inc.
In partnership with Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Earthware is designing, developing, and producing a durable, UV-resistant takeout food container. This container will be used as part of Earthware’s return-for-reuse takeout container program, which is a first-of-its kind circular program in Alberta to reduce waste in the local food industry.
Why CFIN Is Funding This Project
This project, which is part of CFIN’s Food Ecosystem Sustainability pillar, is helping Earthware develop a new type of reusable food takeout container that is a hybrid of plastic and natural hemp fibres. The new container, ideal for restaurants and ready-meal counters at food stores, is UV-resistant, as well as lighter and more durable and keeps food fresher longer than conventional single-use container alternatives.
Consumers are charged a deposit when they purchase food in an Earthware container, which they receive back when they return their container to a bottle depot location in Alberta. The bottle depot then returns the containers and lids to Earthware for washing, sanitizing and re-use if possible. Earthware is the first reuse organization in the world to be accepted into a government-regulated deposit return program.
To develop the container, Earthware has partnered with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, a collaboration that uses the skills and resources of a publicly funded academic institution to help find a solution to a challenge in the industry.
Benefits to Canadians
As Canadians become increasingly aware of the environmental impact caused by single-use plastics, there is a growing demand for sustainable, affordable alternatives to plastics, especially in sectors like foodservice where single-use plastics are widely used.
Implementing circular systems like the Earthware reusable takeout container program is vital in tackling Canada’s national waste and pollution problem. The positive impacts of this project will not only influence Canada’s food sector but will also support Canada’s transition to net-zero by 2050.
Market Adoption/Global Opportunity
According to the second Plastic Waste Makers Index, the world generated 139 million metric tons of single-use plastic waste in 2021. Canada is one of a growing number of countries world-wide committed to reducing or eliminating the use of single-use plastics. This means businesses globally are looking for ways to reduce waste and adopt circular systems that will solve waste problems while also adding value to products and processes.
Under a new program model, restaurants are now switching completely to Earthware takeout containers, whereas before they only used the reusable containers when asked. This represents a demand increase from less than 1% of orders to 100%. To accommodate their growth, Earthware has moved into new office and warehouse space in Calgary, which will soon also house their new container wash facility.
Interest has also been strong from the innovation ecosystem. Earthware has been accepted into the Telus Community Safety and Wellness Accelerator and the Plug N' Play Accelerator, as well as being named one of the Emerging Leaders of 2023 by The Peak, and one Canada's Most Investable Cleantech Ventures by Foresight 50.