Finalist 2021

Returnr Marketplace

Returnr / Returnr Marketplace / Cumulo Group

Zero waste groceries & alcohol delivered to your door. Empty container collection & washing. Members only service operating in Melbourne, Australia.

Returnr Marketplace delivers groceries and alcohol to households across Melbourne in reusable containers with tags that provide sleek pantry organisation. Returnr Marketplace collects empty containers for washing and reuse.

Working with a range of local grocery and produce suppliers, Returnr Marketplace also offers a Low Price Promise - matching the actual retail price of all goods sold. A member only service with the low monthly membership fee helping to cover the costs of container collection and washing.

Returnr Marketplace is a true circular economy business, with every product sold eliminating the normal packaging waste associated with that product.

Design Brief

The brief for Return Marketplace was to design a grocery delivery service that operated with a 100% commitment to zero waste. That was commercially and environmentally sustainable and offered high quality service and grocery products to consumers at competitive prices with low barriers to entry/adoption.

After years of implementing zero waste initiatives and systems that were run in parallel with single-use packaging waste systems we felt a 100% commitment to zero waste was required to achieve the full waste minimisation potential of our reusable product range.

A 100% commitment to zero waste;

  • Simplifies messaging to consumers in providing them with a simple uncomplicated zero waste product/service without the need for them to make trade off decisions at point of purchase.
  • Attracts a certain type of consumer who increasingly wants to make more sustainable choices.
  • Creates far more impact.
  • Demonstrates (if executed well) how simple and successful zero waste can be.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

The in house Returnr product design team has designed and crafted all aspects of the Returnr Marketplace user experience. This has included the custom designed stainless steel canisters, sealing lids, labelling & tagging system, reusable tote bags.

The design and development of the ecommerce shopping environment and the subscription membership interface. And possibly most critical the design and development of the return logistics and washing infrastructure and function flow.

The design process has been a prototype lead and user experience centred process that has ultimately lead to the launch of what is effectively a highly function Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The launch of this MVP has already proved some key assumptions; That a market for zero waste groceries exists, that it can be profitably serviced, and that the return logistics can operate effectively.

Going forward our user experience centred design philosophy will seek to constantly refine and develop the Returnr Marketplace offer to enhance the overall impact.

Including the ongoing design of a broader range of tailored reusable container and packaging solutions that will allow Returnr Marketplace to offer consumers a broader range of grocery and household products in reusable packaging, and also afford consumers greater utility through reusable containers and solutions that function better than their single-use counterparts.

Design Excellence

Returnr Marketplace and the reusable container system demonstrates the criteria of good design. The system has been designed to be easy to use, with a low cost monthly membership fee that helps to cover the return logistics costs of container collection and washing. Otherwise the shopping experience on Returnr Marketplace is akin to any normal online grocery shopping experience, familiar and easy to adopt.

The ecommerce UI has been designed to been clean, simple and uncluttered. The Returnr Marketplace containers and tagging system has been thoughtfully crafted to afford peerless utility, sleek design and simplicity of use. Grocery products are delivered in the same tagged containers that users place directly in their pantry. Stackable, labelled and with clear lids. They make organising a pantry simple and they look great.

Stainless Steel has been chosen as the main container material of Returnr Marketplace as it is the best material for a shared food and beverage product. It is robust and virtually unbreakable, wears really well after thousands of uses, and is super hygienic and won't retain odurs and stains after thousands of reuses.

Design Innovation

Returnr Marketplace's design innovation is unique and world leading.

Returnr Marketplace's business model with low monthly membership fee is an innovative way of reducing the high cost to end users of buying and owning enough reusable containers to store their entire grocery shop. This reduces up front and total end consumer adoption costs, making the decision to shop with reusable packaging easier.

Returnr Marketplace's model of shared reusable packaging also makes the system of using and returning containers more fluid as consumers can order a new container filled with a grocery item before their existing container in the home is totally empty.

This streamlines the ordering and return process and eliminates the chunkiness associated with shopping for groceries in reusable containers at a bricks & mortar zero waste grocery store.

Design Impact

Returnr Marketplace's environmental impact is real, immediate and substantial. Every time consumer orders groceries and alcohol on Returnr Marketplace they stop hundreds of grams or kilograms of packaging waste from being manufactured, printed on, used, disposed of, collected, sorted and recycled. Or as is more likely the case, ending up in landfill. This impact is profound and cannot be underestimated.

The Returnr Marketplace model of reuse is thousands of times more effective and efficient as compared to recycling single-use packaging.

Launched in September 2021, Returnr Marketplace is still in its infancy but is currently growing on an exciting trajectory. The ultimate aim of Returnr Marketplace is to grow to to service at least 3,500 homes across the suburbs of Melbourne. Ultimately eliminating 750 tonnes of single-use packaging from being manufactured, used and disposed of each year.

Beyond the immediate goals of tackling single-use packaging waste in the grocery shopping of Melbournians we aim to grow the service beyond metropolitan Melbourne to create even broader waste elimination impact.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Returnr Marketplace represents the very best of circular design by its very nature.

The core purpose and functional reality of Returnr Marketplace is to eliminate the single-use packaging associated with grocery and alcohol purchases by providing consumers with an easy to adopt way to order these products delivered to their door in reusable containers.

Reusing containers multiple times, rather than recycling single-use packaging is what the circular economy is all about.

Reuse of a reusable packaging option effectively recycles a piece of packaging end-to-end with no down-cycling, huge reductions in system costs, significantly better efficiencies and almost zero loss.

Recycling on the other hand is broken. Single-use packaging is either not recyclable, partially recyclable or not recycled in the region it is used or collected. Single-use packaging is mostly either not collected or contaminated during collection, requires costly sorting and ultimately is recycled at astonishingly low rates even after decades or refinement and advancement in recycling technologies, collection infrastructure and consumer education.

And in most cases, even when packaging is recycled the recycled material is only used in down-cycled products or as filler material mixed with virgin material in producing new packaging.

Single-use packaging that is actually recycled and reproduced into another piece of packaging that contains 100% recycled content is the extreme exception, not the rule. The unicorn scenario that even if possible at significant scale doesn't make a lot of sense when we consider the huge costs of collection, sorting, cleaning, recycling and re-manufacturing.

Reuse quite literally results in outcomes thousands of times better.

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