In this edition of our interviews with the Sustainability Awards 2020 finalists, we talk with reuse specialists MIWA.

Congratulations on being selected by the international judging panel as a Sustainability Awards 2020 finalist! Could you please introduce your successful entry and tell us what’s innovative about it?

MIWA is a technology company on a mission to prevent single-use packaging waste of food and non-food products.

We have invented a circular system of 12-litre smart reusable capsules rotating among the producer, the cleaning centre and the supermarket. In a store, capsules get placed into a modular shelf containing electronic dispensers, a touchscreen, and an integrated scale. This enables consumers to buy products package-free in a simple and modern way.

For even more convenient shopping experience, customers can use smart shopping cups that are connected with a mobile app, providing them with special functions and detailed information about the goods they bought.

Every packaging in the MIWA system can get traced thanks to smart chips and the information system. Thanks to the closed-loop system of reuse and effective recycling, MIWA significantly minimizes packaging waste via the whole supply chain from producer to end-consumer.

In comparison to the traditional bulk, MIWA provides a high hygienic standard, convenience, and detailed info about the goods. Thanks to the smart technology and integrated IoT elements, MIWA brings more efficient in-store operations and scalable solutions suitable also for big brands and the usual supermarket chains. At the same-time, package-free shopping becomes available and convenient for the end-customers by bringing them a unique sustainable shopping experience.

Long story short – we aim to redefine package-free shopping to make it a future standard for everyone!

What are the environmental challenges in packaging that your entry addresses, and what impact do you hope it will make? 

You probably know that EU states generate almost 80 million tons of packaging waste each year. The plastics have become the typical packaging material, with all their bad consequences as a waste. As only 42% of the collected plastic packaging gets recycled in the EU, waste prevention is clearly the only way out!

But to really turn-off the plastic tap, shopping with reusables must become a new normal. And this is why MIWA solution is here. Our system engages producers, retailers and shoppers into one business ecosystem where everybody benefits and everybody helps to make the delivery and shopping more sustainable. The LCA analysis has shown that in comparison to normal disposable packaging, MIWA can reduce the overall negative environmental impact by up to 71%!

I’d like to ask you about the broader picture beyond your successful entry. ‘Sustainability’ in packaging is multi-dimensional – both in terms of objectives and challenges. Could you comment on the most important roadblocks you identify from your position in the value chain, and the kinds of solutions you would like to see addressing them (e.g. areas of technological innovation, collaboration, regulation)?

There are several reasons why bulk or so-called "package-free shopping" is so hard to make mainstream. First, the practical ones – bulk sale used to be time-consuming for retailers and it was hard to ensure brand quality. This is something MIWA has solved thanks to smart technology and standardization.

Second – worries about hygiene. This topic has also been successfully addressed by MIWA – our capsules are hermetically sealed so that no one can touch the food throughout the distribution. The third and biggest problem is unclear legislation, which discourages the big brands and large retailers from switching to a more responsible way of shopping and to packaging reuse.

Despite the scientific evidence that reusable packaging is safe when properly sanitized in a well-established system, we still need governments and politicians to make supportive statements and regulations.