Naked Takeaway

The Naked Takeaway is an innovative year-long pilot project across three towns in North East Wales to introduce a deposit return scheme for reusable takeaway food containers. Following examples of successful schemes for reusable takeaway cups, they aimed to reduce the amount of single-use plastic food containers used by cafes and restaurants. Cllr Andrea Mearns explores the scheme with help from Mold Town Council.

Starting small in our three communities, the Naked Takeaway scheme gives businesses and consumers the option to make behavioural changes that collectively have a big impact. The tri-town project is led by Mold Town Council, in collaboration with Llangollen and Caerwys Town Councils and Mold Plastic Reduction. Mold and Llangollen are both Cittaslow towns and are widely involved in promoting actions to reduce the use of single-use plastics generally in their towns.

The Naked Takeaway is a unique project in Wales and is being monitored by the Welsh Govenment as a circular economy exemplar for other towns.

Project goals

Support the Circular Economy

At the top of the waste hierarchy is prevention which includes direct re-use of items that have not become waste (WRAP)[1]. By offering metal reusable food containers the Naked Takeaway creates a sustainable takeaway scheme.

Phase out single use plastic

At plastic reduction public meetings and on social media people flagged concerns about:

  • which plastics can be included in household kerbside recycling;
  • reusable products which look like plastics are treated as disposable and put in the same waste streams;
  • how bio-plastics are difficult to recognise and are added to plastic recycling;
  • industrial composting is not available locally and is a complicated product-specific process

Findings from local organisations indicated that people wanted to reduce their consumption and prevent the unnecessary plastic waste of disposable single use takeaway food containers. As consumers, they wanted reusable alternative solutions to help reduce the negative impact of plastic on our environment and the problems we are causing for future generations.

Enable communities to take collective action

Mold, Llangollen and Caerwys have an excellent record of taking collective action to bring about environmental and social change in our communities. The Town Councils, their food and plastic reduction groups and interested businesses are working together on the Naked Takeaway scheme to help address the urgent problem of single use takeaway containers.

  • Mold and Llangollen are members of the international Cittaslow[2] movement which encourage economic, social and environmental sustainability.
  • Llangollen led the way in becoming accredited as a Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) Plastic Free Community[3], a year later they helped Mold to achieve the status through Mold Plastic Reduction group[4]. In February, 2020 Caerwys started down that route at a well-supported public meeting.
  • All three Councils organise regular litter picks with volunteers and their litter picking equipment can be borrowed all year.
  • Flintshire and Denbighshire County Councils help support our actions.
  • The towns work closely with Keep Wales Tidy and North Wales Wildlife Trust on waste reduction and environmental projects.

Create the conditions for business to seize the opportunities

According to the Sustainable Restaurant Association[5], the challenge for restaurants, cafes and takeaways is to transition to sustainable alternatives from single use packaging without disrupting their businesses.

Due to Covid-19 and major health and safety concerns, the Association thinks that ‘it is only realistic to expect higher levels of waste and single use packaging’. This is also what residents in the three towns reported during lock down. Flintshire County Council saw a rise in household residual waste and recycling in this period.

As the number of takeaway meals increased during lockdowns, the Naked Takeaway project is more important than ever to put a sustainable reusable food container in place to prevent single use; introduce a local solution for engaging with communities and promote the green credentials of businesses involved whilst minimising their financial risk.

Project result

The Naked Takeaway project went live in March 2021 and involves six businesses in three towns. It has been widely welcomed by customers and businesses. Planning started in June 2020 with partnerships formed and the need for such a scheme carefully researched.

Mold Town Council and partners were successful in their application for a £7,310 Circular Economy Fund award from the Welsh Government. This enabled them to buy 500 reusable metal tiffin tins in two sizes and 180 reusable metal pizza cases, to give to six businesses.

The six businesses across three towns have been selected to take part in the year-long pilot and have been given the tiffin tins or pizza cases. They will carefully monitor how many takeaway meals they sell in reusable Naked Takeaway containers or their standard single use plastic and cardboard containers.

Five of the businesses were supplied, free of charge, with 50 x two tier and 50 x three tier stainless steel tiffin tins. These can be reused indefinitely plus stainless steel is 100% recyclable, with no down-cycling and a high post-consumer value.

One of the businesses was supplied with 180 aluminium alloy pizza cases, which the manufacturers state can be used up to thirty times. Once the pizza cases need replacing they can be completely recycled infinite times. They are a 99% aluminium alloy – the recycling process uses 5% of the energy used for the production of virgin aluminium.

A cost analysis will review the financial benefits of purchasing reusable takeaway containers v single-use containers, and the environmental benefits of having less plastics in the town. This information will be widely circulated.

The projected figures are based on assumptions made in June 2020

  • That there would be 600 covers a week in the 3 towns in a Naked Takeaway container
  • That 26,000 single use plastic containers were not used and not in the waste stream over 12 months across the 3 towns
  • That 5,200 single use pizza boxes were not in use and not in the waste stream over 12 months in one town

This pilot project provides excellent value for money. Once the Naked Takeaway containers are in use, they can be used over and over again. The number of times will depend on how well they are looked after by both the businesses and their customers and this will be monitored during the pilot.

Supporting businesses with marketing opportunities

Some of the businesses have seized the marketing opportunity of promoting their businesses to a wider, diverse range of customers through Naked Takeaway. And report attracting new customers asking for reusable containers

The businesses have received support from local and national leaders, including our Member of the Senedd, Hannah Blythyn, who brought the First Minister of Wales to Alexander’s in Mold to meet Craig Lewis and find out about Naked Takeaway and reusable pizza cases.

The next stage of the media plan is to raise awareness of the project nationally so that other interested towns can find out more.

As well as using broadcast and social media to do this we are working with Cittaslow UK, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), Refill UK and One Voice Wales to reach a wider audience.

Internationally we’ll let towns in other countries know about the pilot through the Cittaslow network as Mold and Llangollen are member towns.

Finance

A capital grant of £7,310 from the Welsh Government’s Circular Economy Fund. The projected figures are based on assumptions made in June 2020.

Plastic container comparison

Container Cost
Cost per cover using single use plastic container and lid (Based on information provided by one of the participating businesses) £0.36
Over 12months, cost for single use plastic containers for each of the 5 businesses

(based on 250 covers a week for the single use products, 13,000 covers a year)

£4,680
Cost per unit of Naked Takeaway 2 tier tiffin tin £12.17
Over 12months, cost for Naked Takeaway 2 tier tiffin tins (125 for each of 5 businesses)

(scaled up to make a direct comparison with single use and based on 250 covers a week – this assumes a return time of a week and does not take into account any customer preference for single use)

£1521.25
Cost per unit of Naked Takeaway 3 tier tiffin tin £14.33
Over 12months, cost for Naked Takeaway 3 tier tiffin tins (125 for each of 5 businesses)

(scaled up to make a direct comparison with single use and based on 250 covers a week – this assumes a return time of a week and does not take into account any customer preference for single use)

£1791.25
Saving for each of the 5 businesses if all covers were in reusable takeaway containers £1,367.50

 

Pizza box comparison

Container Cost
Cost per unit of single use cardboard pizza box (Based on Nisbets Fiesta Green compostable plain pizza boxes 12” pack of 100 = £26.39) £0.26
Cost for single use cardboard pizza boxes for one business

(based on 250 covers a week for the single use products, 13,000 covers a year)

£3,380
Cost per unit of Naked Takeaway pizza tin £2.40
Cost for Naked Takeaway pizza tins (433 tins for 1 business)

(scaled up to make a direct comparison with single use and based on 250 covers a week – this assumes a return rate of a week and does not take into account any customer preference for single use)

£1039.20
Saving for one business if all covers were in reusable takeaway containers £2,340.80

At the moment it’s looking unlikely that these projected figures will be met. This is for a number of reasons including:

  • The impact of Covid-19 government ‘lockdowns’ on businesses and what they were able to offer
  • One of the businesses was closed since the start of the December 2020 lockdown and did not re-open until June
  • 3 of the businesses are taking a softly softly phased approach and only offering the tins to customers who ask for them
  • One of the businesses has decided the scheme is not for them and has been replaced with another business
  • Llangollen Town Council has struggled to find businesses who want to be involved due to their trade being based on tourism
  • Two of the businesses are finding it a challenge to record the data we need

Staff

Officer support

The officers are looking after the finance, governance and monitoring the scheme. Officer support from Mold Town Council involves Mold Town Clerk in an average 3.5 hours a month and Mold Business and Regeneration officer in 5 hours a month. From Llangollen Town Council 1.5 hours a month for Llangollen Town Clerk.

Volunteers

Volunteers look after the businesses, collecting data, distributing the reusable food containers, marketing and raising public awareness in Naked Takeaway. Six main volunteers from Mold Plastic Reduction, and Llangollen Plastic Reduction with councillors in Mold and Caerwys,  average 40 hours a month.

Businesses

The six businesses involved in the pilot average 2 hours a month to complete the monitoring forms and take part in promotions.

Award Winning

The Naked Takeaway pilot project was entered into the environmental category of the Cittaslow Chiocciola Orange 2021 Award. The reusable food containers scheme was voted overall winner of all seven categories at an online event held during the Cittaslow International Assembly on 12 June 2021. In taking top spot, Mold made history by becoming the first UK town to win the Cittaslow accolade and were World Wide Winners.

 

References

[1] https://www.wrapcymru.org.uk/

[2] https://www.cittaslow.org.uk/

[3] https://www.sas.org.uk/plastic-free-communities/

[4] https://moldplasticreduction.org/

[5] https://foodmadegood.org/

 

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