junee is an Islington-based start-up operating a reusable packaging scheme (reusa-bowls) for businesses. They saw an opportunity to enhance their offer by making reusable packaging simple to use with lunch bought on-the-go from market traders, in addition to their pre-existing solution with restaurants.ReLondon awarded the business a grant from Islington Council and advisory support from the ERDF-funded business transformation programme to pilot their ‘reusa-bowls’ with office workers buying lunch from local food market vendors. During the pilot, junee worked with two mid-sized offices, providing reusa-bowls for approximately 250+ employees to use with 21 different market traders. Employees went on to avoid the use of 650 pieces of disposable packaging, saving 95.55kg CO2e. Through this process, junee gained important insights in establishing an on-the-go reusable packaging service, which will inform a new project they have secured with a major food market in London.
What was the challenge?
junee is a start-up that helps businesses tackle the single-use packaging waste that is generated when office workers buy lunches on-the-go. Prior to the pandemic, most Londoners’ on-the-go lunches were from take-away restaurants in disposable packaging . With the gradual return to the office, junee wanted to offer an alternative, reusable container system.
With junee, offices encourage and incentivise their employees to buy lunch from local participating restaurants who sell hot food in junee’s ‘reusa-bowls’ instead of single-use packaging. When employees have finished eating, they simply leave reusa-bowls at drop-off points at their own offices; junee then collects, cleans and returns the containers to the restaurants, ready for reuse. This means that reusable packaging seamlessly transitions from the office environment back to the restaurants, in a convenient experience for both office employees and restaurant staff.
Realising that many London office workers frequented street market vendors, junee wanted to see if they could expand their offer to food stalls. This would mean developing new operations making it possible for market traders, who don’t have space to store reusable packaging, to participate in the service. In doing so, junee hoped not only to test ways to make sustainable behaviours more convenient for office workers, but also help market vendors attract new customers, increase sales while helping to cut packaging costs and negative environmental footprint.
What was the response?
Thanks to a grant from Islington Council and supported throughout by a dedicated business advisor from ReLondon’s ERDF-funded business transformation programme, junee was able to design and launch a pilot at two offices with local market vendors.
Working with the council, junee engaged with offices local to Exmouth and Whitecross food markets, as well as the individual market vendors themselves. They were able to agree and start the trial at Exmouth market in June 2022 and at Whitecross Market in mid-September 2022 with two participating offices of 250+ employees. As part of the trial, they installed return boxes directly in the offices and provided stickers to market stalls to help them raise awareness of the scheme.
To make the operation work, junee supplied reusa-bowls to the offices, meaning that market traders didn’t have to store and hand out bowls to customers. Additionally, junee encouraged market vendors to offer discounts ranging from 10p to £1 to individuals bringing reusable, ‘bring-your-own’ (BYO) containers – whether a reusa-bowl or their own – believing that encouraging a general behaviour change would be good for everyone.
junee wanted to use the pilot to test a multi-pronged approach to encouraging uptake by office workers including having reusa-bowls easily to hand in the office, removing their previous usual requirement to scan QR codes in parallel to using an app, and working with, market traders to promote the scheme.
Throughout the pilot, junee exceeded their goal and convinced the 21 market traders they engaged with to accept reusa-bowls and BYO containers when serving customers, and around a third actively rewarded this with discounts.
What were the outcomes?
Across the two participating offices, junee bowls prevented the use of 650 disposable containers – equating to just under 100kg CO2e avoided! Equally important, the pilot achieved an impressive 100% return rate of reusa-bowls, maximising reuse which is critical for the system to become lower carbon than the single-use alternative.
The participating offices liked the trial with junee so much they’ve decided to keep providing junee bowls to their employees. They reported that they found the benefits go beyond just preventing disposable packaging at lunch time – employees are also wasting less food in the office; are more aware of the impact of takeaway containers outside of work, and are moving towards reusable packaging beyond food-to-go.
Lessons learned & next steps
junee’s pilot demonstrates how supporting one small business can have a positive ripple effect throughout the community – both in helping improve the resilience of local businesses and by encouraging sustainable behaviours of those who live and work locally.
Through the pilot, overall awareness of the impact of single-use plastic has increased, and when surveyed, the offices reported that employees’ behaviours have changed in relation to not only reusable packaging but also food waste. In addition, the scheme supports small market vendors by increasing their attractiveness to environmentally minded target customers.
Convenience for users is key. junee removed as many barriers to use for the office workers as possible. They began the pilot using an app and QR scanning to track the reusa-bowls but saw a much higher uptake when they scrapped this and simply placed the reusa-bowls in the offices along with a return box for used containers, meaning the only effort required of the user is remembering to take a bowl from the office before leaving for the market.
Discounts offered at the market stalls were an attractive incentive for offices to sign up – however, due to the increase in the cost of living/doing business, many market vendors were unable to offer this.
junee are now focusing on building on the learnings to expand this model to semi-closed spaces, such as food markets, event venues, and canteens, where it is easier to establish reuse as the default packaging option. junee have recently started a project with Mercato Metropolitano, a food market in South London, to provide their 1.5 million meals a year in junee’s reusa-bowls.
If you’re interested in working with junee, get in touch with the junee team at email@example.com.
ReLondon’s business transformation team continues to help small-and-medium sized businesses in London adopt the circular economy through our advisory support, grant schemes, and matchmaking services. Find out more about our fully funded business support programme at our website.