Takeaway food, though usually tasty, has its drawbacks: contents can leak, cool down, and different parts can often end up scrunched together. Then there’s question faced by consumers of how to dispose of the used package – wash it, recycle it, or throw it away with household waste.
Researchers at the Food Institute of Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) in Lithuania therefore set to the task to create solutions that would eliminate the shortcomings of ordinary takeaway packaging.
They first decided to create a package in which food, prepared in a slow, nutrient-saving way, could be easily heated at home, without a need to transfer it from the package. For this, cardboard is the most suitable material.
Food in cardboard boxes can be heated in the oven
Cardboard can be recycled up to 6 times and after a certain processing method is applied, it is possible to compose a cardboard package that can withstand heating in the oven.
This type of cardboard is covered with a special non-flammable material, which takes up less than 10% of the weight. Moreover, the designed packages have specially adapted inserts – tabs which allow you to easily adjust the box size and separate the necessary components of food.
The boxes designed during the workshop come in three sizes, allowing for more economical and sustainable use of resources and making the packaging adaptable for different meals. To preserve the aesthetic appearance of the food during transportation, a special sleeve has been created – it holds the boxes in place, preventing them from rolling and moving around. The sleeve weighs less than a regular paper bag.
Per consumer request, clear instructions are printed on the packages which contain information on how they must be recycled, how long and at what temperature they can be heated.
“There is also a special supportive frame that prevents the lid from buckling and ruining the wonderful view of a restaurant’s masterpiece – after all, we also eat with our eyes”, said KTU researcher Zabulionė.
This innovation benefits not only the consumer but also the restaurant, the researchers claimed. The cardboard is 'perfectly suited' for various types of printing – the restaurant logo or other important information can be displayed on the boxes.
Furthermore, the packages have been designed in such a way that when they are empty, they easily fit into each other and save storage space. After using the package, it can be sent for recycling or composted.
The project was organised by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology Food community (EIT FOOD). “Soon these boxes, created by Lithuanian consumers and businesses, will be one of the package options when ordering food at home,” stated Zabulionė.