- On 2022/1/5
On March 13, 2021, we held an idea-thon online under the topic of “Circular Economy and Digital Transformation (DX).” This time we specifically focused on the issue of plastic takeout containers and discussed how we could circulate the containers instead of wasting them.
*This event is part of Circular Economy Plus School, which is organized by Circular Yokohama in collaboration with the YOKOHAMA Living Lab Support Office and the NPO Yokohama Community Design Lab.
The relation between DX and the Circular Economy
As an input before getting into the idea-thon, we defined what “DX” and “Circular Economy” are.
DX refers to “digital transformation that changes people’s lives for the better.” (reference: IDEAS FOR GOOD, “What is Digital Transformation (DX) and what does it mean?) We introduced some of the general technologies used in DX, such as 3D printers, IoT, AI, and blockchain.
These days, it is said that DX can be one of the ways to realize the circular economy. We also introduced some advanced technologies that would help realize the circular economy.
Apply the technology into takeout containers sharing service model
After learning the latest technologies in DX, we had an idea-thon about a new sharing service model in groups. We took the actual developing business model that aims to circulate to-go containers in the Minato Mirai area and reduce plastic consumption.
Since we had a discussion online this time, we worked in group of four on the online collaborative whiteboard platform “miro.”
The first step was to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of using disposable plastic containers. From the perspective of both users and stores, we found out that disposable plastic containers are suitable because they are always clean. Plus, they are carriageable so that we can eat food anywhere anytime we want. However, they have disadvantages as well. For example, they don’t make fancy food look as good as on the plate, and since it is single-use, they generate more garbage.
From the perspective of restaurants and stores that offer a takeout service, on the other hand, plastic containers cost less, and takeout is one of their business model to serve food regardless of the quarantine. However, the takeout and delivery service might loose opportunity of face to face communication that we usually had in a restaurant, so this option should not be the best way despite the pandemic.
The next step is to have a whiteboard and consider the DX technology that would suit the sharing business model based on these advantages and disadvantages. How can the DX technology make to-go containers sharable, returnable, and circular?
This time, we divided the ideas into the following five categories:
- what kind of containers to share
- who/ where to collect and clean the containers
- benefits for customers
- benefits for restaurants and stores
- who invest the whole sharing service
In the discussion, the participants shared their ideas of using the DX technology. For instance, apply IoT to the containers, have the digital service to earn points for each return, and help people record their diet.
Once they had come up with all the ideas, the last step was to bring all the ideas together on the diagram. The point of this process was to include the uniqueness of the Minato Mirai area as downtown into the business model. Who and What kind of companies are in the area? And who would need the takeout food service?
At the end of today’s session, each group gave a presentation. The discussion was very active as the following ideas were suggested:
-Several offices own their cafeteria around Minato Mirai. We may be able to find the need there. Using IoT and personalizing the meal would be the new option for them.
-In terms of business, we could make money by charging for the service and brokerage. Some additional services such as diet management could also be a source of income.
-Focusing on the issue of the meal in the plastic container not looking tasty, we could use 3D printers and create customized containers. We charge for the fee depending on the types and designs of the container.
Today’s topic, “takeout containers sharing service,” is ongoing as a project Zero Ring in the Minato Mirai and Kannai area as of 2021.
At the end of the event, we introduced the actual plan and other similar business models inside/ outside Japan.
The field of DX in the environment, social, business is still growing. More research is needed to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. Circular Yokohama will support local issues by sharing information and joining the projects.
In Japan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) compiled “Guidelines for Promoting Digital Transformation (DX)” in 2018. That has triggered the spread of the concept of DX.
It seems to have much in common with the circular economy in that DX aims to transform the business model itself and create new values in addition to using simple IT. For example, data that has been hidden has a high potential of creating unique value.
Above all, it is our pleasure to work with other people, and the new circular project gets on board like today’s idea-thon.
METI has also declared that Japan’s economic loss would be up to 12 trillion yen in 2025 if we would not accept DX, called “the cliff of 2025.”
Many companies start promoting DX in anticipation of “the cliff of 2025.” It should be the key in our economy to keep our eyes on the transition and consider incorporating DX into your business model.