If you are the owner of a cafe, a restaurant, a hotel or you organise events and caterings, avoiding take-away plastic trash starts with YOUR decision. How can your customers take responsibility if you only offer plastic packaging for food and drinks? From cutleries to take away boxes, plates, cold or hot cups… Since 170 million tonnes of waste are created every year only in the UK with takeaway packaging, compostable food packaging is now the solution to reduce the environmental impact of hospitality.
We interview Doremi, a compostable food packaging brand for hospitality business owners who have decided to reduce the environmental impact of plastic waste. It is a plant-based solution made, and since they started they have saved over 50 tonnes of carbon and 15 tonnes of virgin materials just in their production. Imagine how much plastic the restaurants and catering businesses have saved with Doremi! Their true fight is against the plastic packaging “We would like to ban the plastics in Hungary”
Learn everything about their compostable food packaging with this interview, we hope you enjoy as much as we did!
What was the tipping point of Doremi Today project? How and why did it start?
Doremi Today is a company which brought together experts from the restaurant industry, marketing and civil society to offer environmentally friendly alternatives for restaurants and festivals. We experienced the number of plastic waste businesses can create and found new technologies and biomaterials which can fully substitute plastic in the restaurant industry. We established a social business model 3 years ago which builds on collaboration, innovation and sustainability.
What is the mission of the brand?
Our mission is to promote and support plastic-free life by offering competitive and sustainable alternatives to plastic.
What are the materials Doremi uses to produce the vegware packaging?
Currently, our production is managed by Vegware Ltd based in the UK. We also produce other items in Germany. Our eco materials are:
NatureFlex which is a transparent compostable film made from wood pulp;
Eco paper and card which is sustainably sourced and recycled card;
Bagasse, which is recycled sugarcane that needs 99% less carbon than polystyrene and paper;
RCPLA (recycled high heat PLA) which means 89% less carbon than plastic and 42% less carbon than new PLA. PLA plant-based makes 81% less carbon than plastic.
Doremi is an excellent alternative to plastic. It looks better and feels better, and also the material is stronger.
What sort of products can we get on the Doremi range?
We have a vast range of compostable packaging, from cutleries to take away boxes through cold or hot cups. A restaurant or a catering company can replace every plastic item with compostables.
What are all the benefits of using vegware packaging products?
In 2017 Doremi saved 26 tonnes of carbon and 5.7 tonnes of virgin material.
When using the plant-based packaging, does it feel much different to the plastic plates, glasses, cutlery…?
Doremi is an excellent alternative to plastic. It looks better and feels better, and also the material is stronger. The cutleries are less likely to fall apart. The only challenge we have is the PLA cups can be deformed under the direct sun when the temperature is higher than 50-60 Celsius. One part of the customers decided to change plastic to our products not because of environmental concerns but due to its better quality and design.
How has been the reactions of the clients when you explain to them they are using packaging products made out of plants?
There is an increasing number of people aware of the danger of plastic waste, and they are looking for plant-based solutions. Therefore we meet with more and more committed and acknowledged customers. But still, there are a lot of people who are shocked after hearing about PLA, and they actually drink from a transparent corn cup. This emphasises the importance of communication and awareness raising.
Do they feel they are contributing somehow, or does them make them more conscious about the plastic crisis our planet is living in?
Definitely, there are some restaurant-owner who cares a lot about the environment and don’t want to use plastics. When you see the amount of plastic a small café or a restaurant can produce and experience the challenges in the waste selection and waste management in Hungary, then you realise it is your own responsibility what you use and sell under your brand.
Are you pioneers in using plant-based materials to produce the packaging?
We were the first company to sell compostable packaging in Hungary. Now, more and more companies offer compostable products, but most of them still keep the plastic in their portfolio. It shows the market demand but the less commitment of other actors. But this is what makes our company more competitive. We are not only looking at a market as potential customers, but we truly believe in the impact of eco-innovations, like our products.
How does the production process look like for vegware packaging?
The production is managed by Vegware Ltd. In the UK. They have production lines in China, Germany, Belgium and the UK as well. At the moment we are collaborating with a new company which will be the first PLA manufacturer in Hungary.
How recyclable is Doremi packaging, and how would you suggest consumers to use it to make sure we can recycle it up the most?
If they have the chance, they can put the product in compost. But they need to break them into small pieces so the process can be faster. Also, it needs a bit more time to start to biodegradable.
What impact do you estimate the brand has done since starting? How much plastic and carbon dioxide, among others, have you saved? Please provide some data worth sharing.
In 2017 we saved 26 tonnes of carbon, 5.7 tonnes of virgin materials. That’s like cancelling out the carbon from 45 flights from London to New York.
In 2016 we saved 25 tonnes of carbon, 9 tonnes of virgin materials. That’s like cancelling out the carbon from 43 flights from London to New York.
Is Doremi also giving back to the world somehow else?
For us, it is really important to give back. We have a campaign called ‘We are all not hungry’ (tesemvagyehes.hu): We have produced soup containers with children drawings to support Igazgyöngy Foundation. We provide 2 HUF after each plate to the
Foundation to support its work at Told. The drawings were selected through a competition organised by the Foundation. We have also coordinated online campaigns (www.tesemvagyehes.hu) and fundraising events.
May I ask, what have been your biggest challenges so far?
I would say the FINA organised World Championship in Budapest. We could print PLA cups with the brand of FINA, and some catering company could use them. The volume and intensity of this event were bigger than we faced before. Also, it was a good opportunity for us to present our brand.
Do you sell worldwide? Who are your main clients? Wholesale or also individuals can buy smaller quantities directly from you?
Our main clients located in Budapest. Restaurants who have home-delivery services or café shops. But also we individuals can buy smaller quantities if they can visit us at our warehouse. We have a webshop and can sell worldwide as well. Actually, we have a partner in München.
What are the standards a business needs to provide to sell Doremi products?
There are no specific standard requirements, but we work closely with a Foundation (Felelős Gasztrohős) which provides support, audit and ranking for restaurants how to become more sustainable. This is how we encourage our partners to look beyond packaging.
Are you open to other partnerships with businesses that are aligned with your values?
Sure. We have more flourish partnerships. Zöldövözet is an organisation who can collect selective waste in festivals and other events. They can also collect the compostable packaging which can go to the compost.
Also, we have a partnership with the Food Truck Events organisers who are watching them trashes and don’t want to leave a huge footprint in their events.
A consumer should know the power of its decision.
What is your vision, how do you see Doremi Today evolving in the next 5 to 10 years?
Doremi is fighting against the plastic packaging. We would like to ban the plastics in Hungary. This is our community-based mission. As a company, we are planning to have more and more products created in the region, participate in the manufacturing process and contribute to eco-innovation and research.
If you could write a message for other social entrepreneurs on a big wall, what would it say?
We believe this is the only way we should do business. Transparency, integrity, ethics are all key values in business. But this is not only how you do business but how you live.
And what would be the message for the consumers?
A consumer should know the power of its decision. We are all shocked when we see photos of plastic waste in the ocean, but we don’t feel the direct impact of our decision when we buy a simple cup of coffee. But there is.
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