vanilla bean | Updates

By Bastian Schumacher

We have found our Pilot-Box!


Dear Companists,

The first 100 boxes for our pilot phase in Regensburg arrived this week. The right box is crucial for the success of a reusable system and we've been dealing with the subject intensively over the last few weeks. Our first focus was on the material. Why is the material so important? Various criteria such as costs, the ecological balance or robustness have to be weighed up. In order to better understand what is really suitable, we spoke with specialists from the Ifeu Institute in Heidelberg and the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental and Safety Technology, among others.

In doing so, we learned one thing above all else: when it comes to sustainable materials, appearances are deceptive. What seems sustainable is not always the same, and vice versa. In this simplified table you will find the most important findings that we have collected so far:

vanilla bean - Materialvergleich


The problem with composite materials - boxes made of rice fibres, bamboo, etc. - is that they are not always the same.

At the start of the campaign, our favourite was a box based on rice fibre. However, through the various expert discussions we were able to establish that such a fabric has more to do with greenwashing than with sustainability. Boxes based on rice fibre or bamboo are so-called composites, i.e. a mixture of very different materials. In order to keep them together, synthetic resins are usually used, such as melamine resin where formaldehyde is present. That doesn't sound quite so eco-friendly anymore. At higher temperatures or with the influence of acids, the substances dissolve and get into the food. In addition, composites are not recyclable and not really compostable. They are often used for advertising, but in practice these boxes only compost under laboratory conditions. In addition, the production costs are relatively high, which would also lead to a higher deposit price. That is why composite materials are clearly out of the question for us.


An unexpected winner for the pilot - polypropylene (PP for short)

It is no coincidence that the largest returnable cup system in Germany, RECUP, relies on polypropylene cups and all the experts have clearly advised us to use a box made of PP. Polypropylene generally enjoys the reputation of being the "good" plastic. And rightly so. Compared to glass or stainless steel, polypropylene has a much better ecobalance, as the energy consumption during production is much lower, but the material is similarly durable, reusable and 100% recyclable. Due to its temperature resistance and food safety, it is often used for kitchen appliances such as coffee machines or electric kettles, but also for yoghurt pots, for example. PP can also be used without any questionable plasticizers. It is also robust, dimensionally stable and by far the cheapest. Is polypropylene perfect? No, of course not. It is made from petroleum and when a box breaks out of the recycling cycle, it causes the same problems as any other plastic waste. In addition, in our pilot project we now have to test how the boxes behave and change in daily use. In the next few weeks we will take a close look at everything from scratch marks and discolorations to deformations.


Outlook: The final box - bio-polyethylene an exciting candidate

We have been working with a larger reusable expert for weeks now to develop our own box. The final box will most likely be subdivided again. Bio-polyethylene is also a hot candidate for the final material. Bio-polyethylene is based on renewable raw materials such as sugar cane and has almost the same properties as PP. We will continue to test it and keep you up to date.



Many greetings,


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