Having secured over €6 million in a funding round led by Emerald Technology Ventures, Vytal plans to bring its software-enabled reusable packaging to events and entertainment venues – harnessing technology and data in pursuit of maximum value and circularity.

Reportedly, 66 billion single-use food and drink containers are wasted in the EU yearly. As upcoming legislation like the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation encourages the adoption of reuse solutions, Vytal’s technology platform operates an open system across restaurants and canteens in 17 countries, in which consumers can borrow and return reusable containers for free at ‘thousands’ of partner locations.

In replacing single-use packaging, Vytal hopes to conserve valuable resources, cut down on costs, and create value for stakeholders across a circular value chain, from raw material suppliers to consumers and professional cleaning hubs. It aims to implement closed-loop reusable solutions across event and entertainment venues like corporate and university campuses, business districts, airports, city centres, shopping malls, trade fairs, and festivals.

At this year’s OMR Festival in Hamburg, 70,000 attendees are said to have participated in a large-scale pilot of smart reusables for ready-to-consume food and drinks, operated by Vytal’s wholly-owned subsidiary Vytal Events & Entertainment Solutions. The individually traceable cups and food containers streamlined efficiency, the company claims, as unmanned return processes reduced the demand for staff, while consumers experienced shorter waiting times and less time at checkout.

Similarly, professional washing centres are expected to benefit from RFID-equipped reusable containers; for example, they could be used to automate container counting instead of relying on manual processes.

Emerald Technology Ventures led the funding round through its Sustainable Packaging Innovation Fund, with Ventis also participating. As existing investors, Grazia Equity, Kiko Ventures, and Rubio also contributed to further growth capital.

Going forward, Vytal plans to use the investment to expand into new markets and develop its software and data-driven offerings for stakeholders across the value chain.

“We’re thrilled to take on board Emerald, a very experienced investor with a phenomenal network of corporate partners,” says Dr Tim Breker, co-founder and managing director at Vytal. “Transforming the packaging industry towards circularity is a massive business opportunity and Vytal’s technology platform is positioned to win.

“We have established ourselves as thought leaders in the field and are looking forward to accelerating our collaboration with various industry partners.

“We understand the conditions under which reuse outperforms single-use and focus on leveraging software and data to maximize the economic benefits of reusables for all our customers and across use cases.”

Dr Josephine Kreische, managing director of Vytal Events & Entertainment Solutions and Vytal Global for the Tech, Product and Marketing teams, continues: “Unmanned checkout and return handling as well as transparent data collection and automated processes along the circular value chain are key to completely eliminating single-use packaging from the life of our B2B customers and end consumers. We foresee a future, in which reuse is the default food and drink packaging on campuses, inside the Quick Service Restaurant industry and across the event & entertainment industry.”

“The Vytal management team has combined great visionary and strategic thinking with strong execution power,” adds Frederic Petit, partner at Emerald Technology Ventures. “Vytal’s solution perfectly aligns with our conviction regarding reusable packaging.

“In a recent Emerald Packaging Sprint with our corporate partners, we concluded that software and data are the key value drivers of reuse, so we’re very excited to join the Vytal team on their mission to scale the adoption of reuse by leveraging technology to unlock its economic and ecological benefits.”

In other reusable packaging news, Uber Eats and DeliverZero have extended their partnership to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other areas on the West Coast of the United States, offering takeaway food in reusable and returnable containers. Enabling consumers to return their packaging at storefronts or via a courier, the solution hopes to cut down on waste.

Furthermore, Google previously selected nine winners of its Single-Use Plastics Challenge to test their innovations in its foodspaces. This included The Aggressive Good’s data-powered, smart touchless dispensers for bulk snacks, recently implemented into corporate offices, fulfilment centres, and hotels; and Gaeastar’s washable and reusable cups made of 3D-printed clay, with an end-to-end waste life cycle model currently being tested alongside the city of Zurich and a local coffee shop.

Meanwhile, Kelpi recently received over £4.3 million (€5,047,856) in a funding round. It seeks to replace single-use, fossil fuel packaging with paper and card packaging with a seaweed-based coating in the food, drink, cosmetics, and personal care sectors.

If you liked this story, you might also enjoy: 

How are the top brands progressing on packaging sustainability? 

The ultimate guide to global plastic sustainability regulation 

How bad is ‘greenwashing’ in fast fashion packaging? 

A conversation with P&G’s Chief Sustainability Officer