28 February 2023
Sodexo Norway x AION successfully complete joint circular innovation project
The project has demonstrated how designing for circularity can keep high-quality materials in a closed-loop and reduce the need for single-use packaging.
Innovating at speed in a changing landscape
Single-use food and drink packaging is one of the largest contributors to waste in cities and oceans and have been the target of continuously increased regulations in the past years, banning most items. Reusable solutions have since grown as an industry to fill this space, but regulations set limits on how sustainable reusable packaging can be, effectively banning the use of recycled plastic in such items.
The Norwegian circular tech company AION and Sodexo, a global leading food services and facilities management company, have during 2022 collaborated on an innovation project with the goal of developing a reusable and fully circular takeaway solution for canteens and kitchens in Norway.
The project, aiming at using Sodexo Norway’s own plastic waste into new food-grade packaging was initiated despite uncertainty, as it was largely dependent on new EU-regulations by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) expected during 2022 - hopefully enabling recycled PP in items going into closed-loop systems.
Circular design and ensuring high-quality materials don’t become waste
AION and the Sodexo canteen-staff at DNB Bjørvika identified and collected significant volumes of high-quality materials such as industrial kitchen packaging previously discarded after use from Norway’s largest dairy producer, Tine. AION proceeded to set up both local recycling and production capabilities in Halden for materials and products.
In close collaboration with Sodexo Norway’s kitchen and management, the final product was designed to meet all operational needs of the canteen, and fit a fully circular system, where the bowls could easily be taken back as material at their end-of-life.
Launch at DNB NXT
In September 2022, during Oslo Innovation Week at DNB NXT it was finally time to launch the product, where 600 reusable bowls were delivered for the event. These are to be used and re-used during 2023, until they are taken in for recycling and re-manufacturing by AION.
New EFSA regulations and further development
Shortly following, in October new EFSA-regulations were voted through in the EU. AION following this had close dialogue with the Norwegian Food Authority (Mattilsynet) to remain compliant of new guidelines. These new regulations opened new possibilities of using recycled materials in defined closed-loop systems.
Sodexo Norway’s innovative risk on a project with an uncertain outcome has already seen effects, enabling new development and knowledge within this space and already launching further collaborations with the City of Oslo and GRIN, to reduce the amount of take away packaging in Oslo. AION are ready to continue to explore further circular solutions with forward-leaning customers such as Sodexo.
Working in our extended value chain is very important for Sodexo. As a big player in the food value chain, we also have a responsibility to drive a sustainable development within take away packaging, and bring in circularity where we can. We need to find those radical change makers who dare to disrupt the current thinking and status quo. The AION people are brave and smart, and both we and our client DNB took pride in this joint project. Now we are ready to deploy the solutions at several sites.
Kirstine Holst, Head of Sustainability and Strategy, Sodexo Norway
This was a challenging project with Sodexo Norway, jumping into the most complex part of plastic circularity, with huge degrees of uncertainty. To achieve this we had a great experience collaborating with chefs, warehouse managers, canteen managers, and top management across the Sodexo Norway system who took ownership and enthusiasm for the project. Sodexo Norway is the perfect example of industry leading by doing, right across the company, without which we will never achieve the circular economy for plastics.
Dr. Susie Jahren, Chief Circular Product Officer, AION