More and more people are demanding sustainable and climate-smart food choices. For restaurants and restaurants that have switched to serving organic and vegetarian food, the next step will be to also make demands on the packaging. To help customers find disposables with the minimum possible environmental impact, Tingstad, in collaboration with RISE, has developed a world-unique climate compass for disposables.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased demand for disposables as many restaurants have switched to take-away. At the same time, more and more customers are becoming aware of the climate impact of businesses and organisations, and are demanding more sustainable solutions. Many companies see packaging as an extension of their brand, so do not want to sell sustainable food in polystyrene foam packaging, which gives an eco-unfriendly impression.
– “Many of our customers want to make sustainable product choices, but don’t always know or understand how to do this. That's why we set out to develop a user-friendly tool that helps customers compare products and make active choices,” explains Emma Diedrich from Tingstad, Sweden, the company behind the tool.
Climate impact in a larger perspective
Tingstad offers consumables, workwear and equipment to companies in many industries. To meet customer demand for sustainable products, Tingstad developed the Climate Compass in collaboration with RISE to make the climate impact of packaging more understandable and easier to compare. About 3,000 products have been labelled with climate figures with the help of the new tool. The algorithm for the Climate Compass is based on a large amount of data and climate calculations, and each product is ascribed its own unique Compass value. The product’s environmental impact is indicated in four categories: Materials, transport, recyclability and energy types in production. Weighting these aspects creates a more accurate picture of the climate impact of disposables in a larger perspective. The final value of the product is presented on a scale of 1–5 where 1 is the lowest durability score and 5 the highest. The Climate Compass shows each product's value represented by a symbol, which facilitates comparison.
It’s important that a tool like this is based on science
Tools based on science
RISE's role in the project was to update and verify the tool to ensure it complies with environmental and recyclability requirements.
– “Our sustainability experts have many years’ experience in life cycle analysis, sustainability and product safety with regard to packaging, and contributed their skills and data to the project. “It’s important that a tool like this is based on science, that proven databases are used, and that we work in collaboration,” says Tatjana Karpenja, project manager in sustainable packaging materials at RISE.
Customers who visit Tingstad's website to purchase disposables can now easily scroll through different product categories and clearly see the different products’ climate scores. For example, if someone wants to buy a pot of salad dressing containing cornstarch, they can see that it has a score of 4 out of 5. By clicking on the pot, you can clearly see that the product has the top score for materials, but that its recyclability score brings down the overall rating. The electricity mix in its country of production does not have the top score either. The tool is designed to provide a quick, transparent picture of the different products’ climate impact.
Opening up new horizons
Creating a viable tool for such a large number of products was not entirely straightforward. The development process involved trying out different things to find the best solution.
– “It was a challenge to find a way to rate individual Compass components to obtain a common value. We had cross-disciplinary discussions, both internally at RISE and with Tingstad, in order to optimise the Climate compass,” says Tatjana.
Tingstad is convinced that this type of tool represents the future, even though as yet not everyone in the industry has switched to more sustainable production solutions. It is hoped that the Compass will help raise awareness at all stages: among customers, internally in organisations and backwards through the supply chain.
– “It’s been very rewarding for us as a company to manage such a large amount of data in a safe, up-to-date and scientifically verified manner. Being transparent is also a challenge in itself. it’s a question of having courage, pursuing the larger vision and daring to open up new horizons,” concludes Emma.