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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Bing

Choose to recycle or bio-degrade?

When it comes to packaging, a single-use plastic (or polyethylene) is used. For a business, the balance of economic benefit compared to the environmental impact is outweighed in favour for costs and profit. This results in a unsustainable society where our instinctive reaction to packaging is to throw it away. A perfect example is polystyrene boxes used for takeaway and frozen delivery, this material takes over 20 years to decompose and slowly releases hazardous chemicals while it breaks down. Although this case and research happened in 2017, these issues exist today on a much larger scale.

The question we challenged was “How might we change frozen/cooled packaging to minimise its environmental impact”.

Most importantly, how can we introduce new food packaging without compromising the current use for it – protecting the food, marketing and retaining its temperature.

The solution?

We did a whole bunch of research between the differences between recycling and biodegrading as well as the perception of which one is better or worse for the environment. In conclusion, we found that by bio-degrading is seen as more environmentally friendly than recycling in addition to being the most convenient solution without compromise in the market. Our solution used a three-layered approach to ensure products are kept chiller for longer regardless of any damage, weather conditions or soiling.

Similar to cavity wall insulation used in housing, our solution mimicked the idea of keeping cool air in while preventing hot air to enter and vice versa. The outer layer requires a rigid biomass fiber composite design which made the structure while also being biodegradable. The inner insulation was wool which is widely available in NZ in addition of proving to be a good insulator. The most inner layer requires a milk protein packaging film to protect products inside from any spills or leakages.

Who did we talk to?

We kept a strong relationship with the client throughout every assumption we developed to get their feel, taste and input. From every interaction, we walked away with a stronger vision of what to create and throughout the competition knew exactly the business model and application of the solution which stood out to the judges.

Who was on the team?

  • Shandong Mou - PhD in Operation and Supply Chain Management

  • Anita Labane - Bcom

  • Nicholas Bing (Team lead) – Bcom/BA

Biggest Learnings

I learnt a tonne about supply chain management and what it takes to deliver the right product, to the right customer at the right time. I got to understand Fonterra’s business model (or one of) which isn’t widely discussed but is a key backbone in the supply chain network. Lastly, this was one of my first experiences in corporate innovation which gave me a taste of what to expect in the industry and left a precedence for many more challenges to come. As a result, I became one of Fonterra Ventures first interns where I got assigned to one of the start-ups the team trailed for a year called My Milkman.


Although this case study and slides are uploaded on this website where it is easily accessible and available to anyone who enters the page. The intellectual property presented within these cases have been worked on thoroughly and therefore, any information used from any part of these findings should be acknowledged and treated with the same level of integrity. To avoid any copyright infringement, I have blurred out the use of company logos that these cases were presented to.

If you are further interested in these findings, please contact us.


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