Packaging Reuse Drives US Foodservice Growth Strategy

Eco-Products and Ozzi team to expand a reusable plastic container program in the US that reduces foodservice costs and waste.

Kate Bertrand Connolly 1, Freelance Writer

May 13, 2024

4 Min Read
Eco-Products Ozzi reusable plastic packaging
Reusable foodservice program in the US that uses polypropylene containers is expanding.Eco-Products

At a Glance

  • Ozzi’s reusable containers replace single-use ware in institutional foodservice settings.
  • Eco-Products brings zero-waste insight and support to the partnership.
  • Customers include universities, corporations, hospitals, and the military.

Foodservice packaging manufacturer Novolex has made a strategic investment in Ozzi, a reusable-container brand, that will leverage the sustainability expertise of Novolex’s Eco-Products business unit to grow Ozzi’s business.

Eco-Products, a certified B Corp, produces foodservice packaging made from renewable, compostable, and post-consumer recycled materials. The company also has a team of dedicated zero-waste specialists to help customers divert more waste, including packaging, from landfill.

Reuse replaces single-use packaging.

Ozzi provides a closed-loop system for reusing plastic foodservice containers in institutional settings, replacing disposable take-out food containers with reusable containers, cups, and cutlery.

Institutions using Ozzi’s system include colleges and universities, corporate campuses, military bases, and hospitals. The company is currently providing its services in more than 400 campus dining environments, including University of California, San Diego; the University of Pittsburgh; and Clemson University.

Ozzi Machines — dedicated return receptacles — are installed at customer locations to ensure container return and reuse by students, patients, employees, and other users.

The company’s reusable O2GO containers are made from BPA-free polypropylene (PP) with at least 30% recycled material. The containers have been tested by Ecolab for 1,000 commercial high-heat washes and are certified as safe by NSF, previously known as the National Sanitation Foundation.

Additionally, the US-made containers can be reused 300 times before being retired and recycled into new PP products. They come in green and transparent plastic, in several sizes and configurations, including single-compartment and multicompartment designs.

Ozzi estimates that its reuse system has diverted roughly 35 million containers from landfills and oceans since the company’s founding in 2014.

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Tracking the reusable containers.

The Ozzi system works independently, or it can be integrated with most campus meal-plan and digital dining programs, including Atrium and CBORD. Through a recently announced partnership with Atrium, Ozzi can interface with GrubHub, Dining Sidekick by Aramark, Everyday by Sodexo, and similar dining platforms.

Ozzi’s approach includes a proprietary container collection and tracking system that uses barcodes on the food containers. Other reusable-container systems, such as Bopaq, use QR codes and mobile apps to track containers on their reuse journey.

“The Ozzi containers include non-QR barcode technology that enables Atrium and CBORD clients to integrate their dining-card programs with the Ozzi Machine to track the checkout and return of the containers,” says Wendell Simonson, director of marketing for Eco-Products.

“There is no additional app or cashier interaction, no monthly or per unit rental, and no transaction fee,” he adds.

Diners simply insert their empty O2GO containers in the Ozzi Machine with the bar code facing up, and the machine scans the code.

“The big difference between us and the QR-code, web-based application[s] is Ozzi does not charge per transaction,” says Tom Wright, founder and CEO of Ozzi. The QR transaction rates for institutions, he adds, are typically 30 to 60 cents or more, which “negates the savings on disposables.”

The Ozzi system starts with a one-time entrance fee paid by diners or the institution, after which the diner receives a first container. The diner fills the container with food and, after eating, deposits the empty container in an Ozzi Machine.

For subsequent meals, the diner pays a “tender” to check out a clean container and is reimbursed upon depositing that used container in one of the receptacles.

“The great news is participants never pay again. All they have to do is return the container to the machine,” Wright says. However, if diners fail to return a container, they must pay a fee to re-enter the system. Tracking of container checkout/check-in is tied to the student’s or employee’s ID.

The financial benefits can be significant for institutions using reusable containers in place of conventional single-use ware. “The impact from a budget standpoint is [that] all cost associated with disposables is eliminated by charging the entrance fee upfront,” Wright says.

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Eyes on a ‘zero-waste future.’

Eco-Products’ partnership with Ozzi will benefit from the two companies’ complementary strengths, including Eco-Products’ zero-waste knowledge and expertise. 

“Our vision at Eco-Products is ‘to be in the vanguard of our zero-waste future,’ and a passion for all things waste diversion is part of our culture and DNA,” Simonson says.

This focus includes Eco-Products’ Product and Zero Waste Specialists, who “manage relationships with local composters and haulers, work with operators to set up composting programs, and advise all of our audiences on legislation that addresses foodservice packaging,” Simonson adds.

“That passion for zero-waste systems is what makes reusables such a natural fit for the Eco-Products brand and product offering,” he notes. “We see reusables and compostables as complementary and know that the foodservice industry needs as many tools as possible to reduce the amount of food waste and single-use packaging that it sends to landfills.”

In addition to working together on reusable-container systems in the United States, Ozzi and Eco-Products are targeting opportunities in Canada and Europe, where restrictions on single-use plastic foodservice packaging are promulgating.

About the Author(s)

Kate Bertrand Connolly 1

Freelance Writer

Kate Bertrand Connolly has been covering innovations, trends, and technologies in packaging, branding, and business since 1981.

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