Returnable salad tray uses QR to reduce packaging waste

A German supermarket chain, REWE, will offer customers in selected stores a free returnable system for trays at its in-store salad bar, which is claimed to be the first in Germany, helping to address the issue of packaging waste in the food-to-go sector. The concept, by Cologne-based start-up VYTAL has been adapted to the special requirements in supermarkets and will initially be trialled at five locations in Cologne.

Lending is handled by default via an app from Vytal. If the consumer is already a Vytal customer, the ‘key’ to receiving a reusable tray is his or her individual QR code from the app or an offline card. The customer scans their individual QR code at the dispensing station. They can then remove the tray from the dispenser and fill it at the salad bar. At the checkout, the weight of the tray is automatically deducted when weighing the contents. It features a recloseable lid and has a volume of 1,250 ml and is dishwasher and microwave safe.

Users then have two weeks to return the trays free of charge. A separate return station is available for returning the trays at REWE stores. The return is carried out in a few, simple steps: the customer scans the QR code on the lid of the tray, opens the sliding door of the return station, inserts the tray and closes the sliding door again. The unit checks whether the tray has been returned empty and with the lid. If this is the case, the tray is booked out of the customer account and customers receive a return confirmation on their mobile phone.

In principle, the customer can also return the borrowed reusable tray to any other partner working with Vytal. The Vytal app shows all participating providers. Anyone who wants to test the service first without having to install the Vytal app can enter their mobile phone number on the display of the issuing station. The customer then receives an SMS with a code that he enters on the display and is then handed a tray via the dispenser’s tray. A total of three trays can be borrowed via the cell phone number.

"The goal of avoiding and reducing packaging waste has high priority in our packaging strategy. At the same time, more and more customers want ready-to-eat meals and snacks to go, which leads to an increased demand on packaging. We are very pleased to be testing a smart reusable alternative with VYTAL now which enable us to solve this problem, to a certain extent", says Pia Schnück, who is responsible for this sustainability project in REWE's merchandise division.

“We want to make reusable as easy as disposable products,” explains Sven Witthöft, co-founder of Vytal. “Only with reusable solutions can mountains of waste be reduced. Our vision is that in five years all customers who want to take food with them or have it delivered can do so without producing packaging waste”.

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