Package-free food delivery being trialled in Bristol


By Patrick Sullivan, Co-Editor-in-Chief 2019/20

A Bristol engineering graduate and his brother are piloting a food delivery service in the city using customers’ own tupperware to save on packaging waste.

CircleR, a delivery service for food and household items without any packaging waste, is being piloted in Bristol by a student riding his bike.

The idea relies on using customer-provided containers and tupperware, and the first three grocers to offer their produce are Smaller Footprint, Reg The Veg, and Scoops Wholefoods, all situated in Clifton.

Claudio and Enrico Varano, two postgraduates students, have used their newfound free time during lockdown to set up the business and believe COVID-19 has caused more people to use similar delivery services. Enrico, now a PhD student at Imperial College, graduated from the Engineering Design programme at the University of Bristol in 2018 and believes there is ‘so much wrong with plastic packaging’.

When explaining why they started CircleR, which stands for ‘circular economy’ and ‘reusable packaging’, the brothers cited the annual 1.7 million tonnes of plastic packaging disposed of by UK households. They also say ‘recycling gives the illusion of circularity when in reality it can be of thought of as a lengthening process [of the original packaging life]’. They highlight the fact that the recycling is not entirely effective and it is a complex process where civilians wrongly recycling materials can ‘compromise operations’.

‘Reusable packaging prevents an entire end-of-life scenario for single-use plastics: collection, transport, storage, and recycling processing. Even when successfully collected for recycling, only four per cent of plastics re-enter the same value stream as their original purpose.’

Their solution is to start small, and while CircleR is inspired by larger services such as Ocado and Deliveroo, Claudio is currently the sole courier and is cycling deliveries around the local area to test the concept and gauge interest.

Claudio has been cycling around Bristol delivering for his CircleR project | CircleR / Claudio Varano

Claudio, who has been studying for a Masters’ degree in Sustainable Resources at UCL, decided to base himself in Bristol for the lockdown period and, with Enrico still based in London, plans to launch the service in the capital if successful here.

‘I'd been talking to my brother about this project for a few months now and was just waiting to find the time to pilot the model,’ Claudio said.

‘I had some time on my hands after a few assignment deadlines so I started getting in touch with suppliers around town. Bristol has a strong community feeling, and helping out during the COVID-19 crisis felt like a good way to get started.’

Smaller Footprint in Clifton was the first supplier to partner with CircleR | CircleR / Claudio Varano

The next step for the trial is to partner with more businesses and offer more produce for delivery. Currently, their offerings include store cupboard ingredients and household items, such as washing-up liquid, as well as fruit and vegetables.

They will soon be adding bakery items, shampoos and beauty products, and they are looking at how they can safely deliver refrigerated items like milk and eggs safely using customer-provided containers.

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Enrico said: ‘Claudio's pilot is showing that Bristolians are interested in participating in our mission to develop a less wasteful food shopping experience. I can't wait to get started in London too!’

The business has only been operating for a few weeks and has carried out several successful orders already. Their main source of custom comes via their Facebook page and a full list of available products, along with the order form, can be found here.

Featured image: CircleR / Claudio Varano

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Patrick Sullivan

Epigram co-Editor-in-Chief 2019-20, now digital puzzles connoisseur. EngD student researching sustainable composites, entering my sixth year at UoB (somehow).