Single-use plastics are forbidden in Topanga’s Grubhub orders.
When I’m out and about, I always have a steel vacuum mug for my coffee and a coordinating water bottle with me since I care about the environment.
When I order meals for delivery or takeout, I’m (nearly always) faced with a problem with the disposable packaging.
In the United States, containers and packaging accounted up roughly one-third of municipal waste in 2018, whereas 2025 million takeaway containers were estimated to be used annually in EU estimations from the same time period. Since the pandemic, those numbers seem to have increased rather than decreased.
What if there was another option? You guessed it: With its most recent $3.6 million fundraising round, Topanga is specifically aiming to do this.
As part of its growth strategy, Topanga is using college campuses as a venue for its reuse program so that packaging can be monitored and returned using a QR code, following in the footsteps of Facebook and Tinder. Even prizes are offered for participation.
Page Schult, CEO of Topanga, described why they chose the collegiate model, which is currently in use on six college campuses.
The many containers are tracked via the circular system by a QR code. Image Source: Topanga
First, returning packaging is made simple on college campuses. Second, since packaging is only used in certain areas, it is simpler for businesses to keep track of it. Thirdly, it encourages a generation of individuals who would enter the world expecting this kind of reuse operation to become accustomed to it.
Reusable containers are a thing; Algramo is addressing this issue for the UK and Chile, Pyxo and Bibak are addressing it for France, and Dispatch Goods is pursuing the American market.
It’s a big enough problem that there are now plenty of different participants, and I think it’s a good idea to test several iterations of the answer. Finding product/market fit is probably best accomplished by collaborating with a well-known meal delivery business like Grubhub.
According to Schult, who emphasized the market’s size, “We’re instilling a new behavior in a generation of young people who will carry it with them throughout life.
The college market in the U.S. alone is a $3.6 billion+ market potential. This market opportunity is still expanding when you take into account campus-adjacent industries like corporate dining systems and colleges in Canada, Australia, and the EU.
Topanga projects that it will be able to cut out 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions if it grows as Schult anticipates it would throughout college campuses and into related food provision markets.
In addition, it estimates that it may prevent 222 million tons of CO2 emissions and save the economy $120 billion a year in plastic that is discarded carelessly.
For Schult, the benefits are enormous, not only for Topanga but for society as a whole.
Ultimately, Schult remarked, “Our mission is to build circular systems that generate measurable environmental and economic ROI without adding needless waste.”
Reusable packaging will have shown to be not only a sustainable choice, but also a shrewd commercial move for enterprises and supply chains around the world, if we are successful in our efforts ten years from now.
Topanga believes that this is the ideal time to implement these changes. Technology has advanced to the point that it is possible to track, reuse, and return packaging with ease. People also want to have the ability to make straightforward changes that are healthier for the environment.
Topanga was founded by Adam Bailey, Max Olshansky, and Page Schult. Image Source: Topanga
In the last few years, the ordering and fulfillment process has undergone a significant evolution, according to Schult. “These technical advancements have made our platform conceivable with mobile ordering systems, smartphone payments, and new delivery options.
We are involved in this. For instance, this autumn at Colorado State University, Topanga-tagged reusable containers will be carried to students in zero-emission Starship robots.
Topanga has agreements with the three biggest food distributors in the U.S.: Aramark, Sodexo, and Compass in addition to its fundraising round, which was led by Amasia with participation from Struck Capital and Wonder Ventures. Topanga is also immediately embedded into Grubhub’s user interface.
The decision by Topanga to use reusable plastic packaging surprises me. It’s still made of petrochemicals, after all, and there’s still a temptation to throw it away like any other disposable plastic, out of habit or for convenience.
In light of the fact that tiffins have been around for at least a couple hundred years, I wonder if tempered glass or even something as basic as metal might be preferable choices.
Since they can all be used indefinitely, fewer people will throw them away. However, Topanga’s is a positive move, and excellence shouldn’t be the enemy of achievement. That might wait for another day.