Project Week in Amsterdam Takes on Plastics in the Food Industry

Project Week in Amsterdam Takes on Plastics in the Food Industry

Innovation in the catering sector

In 2024, a change in Dutch law will require all restaurants to offer a reusable container option. Ozarka is an enterprise that provides reusable containers to restaurants, canteens and caterers with the mission of helping them reduce their dependence on single-use plastics. In the third Project Week of the year, EBA and MBA students were tasked with conducting market research for Ozarka to test if local restaurants would be willing to participate in a pilot programme by offering the reusable containers to their customers and monitoring the return via an app called Vytal. The app is already in use in Germany and Ozarka is considering a partnership with Vytal in the Netherlands.

Beth Massa, owner of Ozarka, pitched their business dilemma to Wittenborg's students on the 29th of November at the Amsterdam campus. The students were able to pose questions and ask about Ozarka’s value proposition. Beth explained that, currently, their main clients are caterers who service large-scale organisations where they feed hundreds to thousands at a time. The office managers do not want to dispose of 10 bags of single-use plastic a day and they challenged the caterers to come up with a solution. Luckily, Ozarka was ready to assist and has also been active in offering reusable containers to caterers, festival and event organisers. Now they are ready to help restaurants comply with the new law by revolutionising food delivery services.

Project Week in Amsterdam Takes on Plastics in the Food Industry

The teams received samples of the containers and were tasked with approaching restaurants in their vicinity to find out if they were aware of the pending change in the law and would they be willing to participate in the pilot programme. After a month of research, the students presented their results on January 13th to lecturers Amy Abdou and Andreas Ooijer. The main takeaways were that the restaurants had concerns about the collection process and the storing and washing of dirty containers. Some feared the customers would find it unhygienic or said they prefer to use containers which are compostable. The students were challenged to think of ways to incentivise businesses and customers' participation. Luckily, 13 out of the 25 restaurants responded positively to the idea and wanted additional information. Two restaurants agreed to participate in the pilot.

One of the two, Yemaya, located in the Reigersbos shopping centre, specialises in vegan Surinamese soul food and is considered a hidden jewel in Amsterdam Zuidoost. When interviewed, owner Martin Ong-A-Kwie explained that they have regular customers who already bring their own containers. He and his brother also run the lunch canteen at Ir. Lely Lyceum, a technical high school in Reigersbos where approximately 1,000 students attend. With Ozarka’s help, Yemaya can start to offer teachers and students a meal “to-go” in a reusable container as well as reduce their daily use of single use packaging.

Sookjin Kim, MBA candidate, was a stand out as a team leader and really pushed her team to go the extra mile. When asked about the challenges of executing the group work, she explained, “Students often give up easily and wait until they receive final guidance in complex situations.” Kim’s team developed a questionnaire for both customers and restaurateurs and organised their findings with a PESTEL analysis. The team was responsible for securing the second restaurant for the pilot, the Ribs Company in Apeldoorn.

With this project week, Wittenborg students were able to contribute to the awareness of the upcoming legislation and societal changes taking place as a response to the environmental damage the plastic industry has caused.