The EcoBox itself is produced by a German manufacturer called Ornamin, who specializes in the production of food containers, tableware and eating aids. For the base of the EcoBox, they used a polymer called PBT (Polybutylene terephthalate), and the lid is made from PE (Polyethylene). Both compounds are fully recyclable and do not lose their properties and qualities in this process, so even if a container/lid is damaged the company will take them back and reuse the plastic to make a new EcoBox or one of their other products. Both compounds also have the benefit that they do not leak chemicals and microplastics into your food. This is important as many of the Polymers used in food containers or plastic bottles are carcinogenic, a good example of such plastic is PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) which is mainly used in plastic water bottles or single-use-cutleries.
The EcoBox was introduced to the public in 2018 by the Luxembourgish government with the help of Superdreckskescht, which is a recycling company that specializes in plastics and generally materials that are harder to recycle. They also offer sensibilization work for schools and companies, for example, their trash separating label for companies (of which the Mesa has one). The EcoBox is an initiative to reduce the single-use plastic (SUP) waste created in Luxembourg. A study showed that Luxembourg creates 4490 tonnes of plastic waste each year. As SUP will be banned in 2021, the EcoBox is a pilot project aiming to reduce our excessive waste problem and replace SUP with long-term solutions.
Since its introduction, the green reusable container rose in prominence at restaurants and cafes around Luxembourg and by July 2020, 62 000 Boxes were being used in hundreds of canteens, schools, and restaurants. At the end of 2020, the number of boxes increased to 75 000. If we assume that each person uses one small and one large one, then within half a year around 5 000 new customers were using the EcoBox, which makes this project one of the most successful transition initiatives in Luxembourg.
The EcoBox ecosystem works with a deposit system. People ordering food to go from a restaurant pay a 5-euro deposit for the container (any size), they then take it home and clean it once they are done with it. They can then choose to give it back to a restaurant that supports EcoBox and get their deposit back or reuse it. As people only pay a deposit, even if the box breaks, it is basically free, which makes it a valuable, eco-friendly, and cheap alternative for consumers.
The initiative for a more sustainable food container for restaurants comes at the right time as there will be an EU-wide ban on SUPs from July 3rd, 2021. Furthermore, as the government is overseeing the initiative, restaurants are more likely to adapt and accept the containers when selling take-away food. Restaurant owners were often opposed to putting take-away food in reusable containers as it goes against hygiene regulations or simply because they didn’t want to be bothered with an alternative. Hopefully, the attitude towards ecological alternatives will change, now that there is a government-led initiative available.