It seems like a fact that having take-out food has become a large part of the Chinese’s daily life. All you need to do is to add your dishes to the shopping cart and after 40 minutes, the delivery will reach your home. Quite simple, right? But think of it from another standing point: behind this convenient shortcut, how much plastic waste we would throw away?
This is exactly what Ele.me is dealing with. Founded in April 2009, Ele.me is an online ordering platform aiming to “Make Everything 30min”. By June 2017, the online food delivery platform has covered 2,000 cities in China, with 1.3 million restaurants and 260 million users. While the performance continues to improve rapidly, the company also employs more than 15,000 people. It has raised $2.34 billion so far. Besides its well-developed delivery system, now Ele.me sets about making the packaging more degradable, sustainable, and recyclable. Beginning in July, after more than two months of pilot operations, the first take-out plastic waste recycling pilot project, led by Ele.me’s sustainable experiment lab, Relab, was successfully launched. Taking advantage of its own platform and data, on the basis of the existing business influence, starting from the user guide platform, it hopes to reach sustainable development and give more tangible help to promote the recycling policy. At the beginning of the process, it put the waste bin for only take-out waste in the third-floor tea rooms of WeWork headquarter. After getting the waste, it turns the plastic into 350KG recycled take-out plastic particles. The recycled particles were eventually upgraded to 21 succulent floret pots. As you see, Ele.me does give the takeaway plastic a second life!
In addition, some interesting conclusions have been reached during the process of recycling. One is that the rate of the waste thrown in the bin used by the people in Wework is more than 40% when there is someone taking care of the bin, while it is less than 30% if no one is on duty to make sure people throw their take away packaging in the bin.
Another is that the financial incentive is not so strong when it comes to environmental protection, for Ele.me intended to create an incentive for people to recycle the packaging by providing them with a scan code through which people can get some money after throwing the waste. However, the rate of people scanning the code to get money is low.
Nevertheless, the idea of recycling the take-out packages is a good start to turn the waste into treasures. As Vans Zhang, the person in charge of the sustainable lab, claims, by creating the environmentally friendly products, it can bring consumers into the process and engage brainstorming. One small step is just the beginning. Ele.me expects to gather more enterprises and institutional partners to participate in the takeout plastic waste recycling operation, create and optimize the existing recycling mechanism, and promote a solution that can extend to more scenarios.