Sustainable and intelligent: returnable transport solution for the food sector

Newsletter 02/2020

Increasing shipping volumes and the customer’s desire for environmentally friendly packaging are ideal factors for the introduction of sustainable reusable transport solutions in the B2C sector. Researchers at the Fraunhofer CCPE have set themselves the task of tackling this topic holistically in the sense of a Circular Plastics Economy.

© Fraunhofer ICT
Concept Study – Transport Packaging Food Delivery

On the way to a demonstrator for life-cycle sustainable reusable transport solutions, the team had to answer numerous questions about materials and processing, business models and digitalization into the design. When analyzing various business models and industries, the choice quickly fell on the area of fresh produce delivery. Not only is this a growth market – even beyond the Corona virus pandemic – but consumers and shippers are also interested in sustainability and often receive regional deliveries.

Approaches such as those in the area of subscription boxes, for example, are also attractive areas of application from a logistics point of view, as regular deliveries are made here. The aspect of digitization also plays a role in the traceability of transport packaging across all life cycle stages. In combination with the digital twin for circular plastic products developed within the Fraunhofer CCPE, the condition of the transport packaging can be determined within the scope of its use. On the other hand, information about the life cycle of the packaging at the end of its life is also included in the decisions regarding its recycling. Based on the information collected during use, suitable, high-quality recycling options can be selected. On the one hand, it must be clarified what happens to the material at the end of its life cycle, and on the other hand dissipative losses must be evaluated. Two principles have to be considered:

  • The reduction of the material variety, with simultaneous constitution adjustment of the material (mono material systems), e.g. fibre form, foams or compact, in order to make a material recycling possible and to meet the mechanical requirements.
  • Biodegradability, to minimize the ecological footprint of the dissipative losses remaining in the environment. In case of application of the transport box, the Fraunhofer CCPE team works out the corresponding processes and procedures and evaluates them with regard to a large-scale production implementation. Here, the focus is on processes for combining the different material constitutions.