Ringo Eco builds Northern Europe’s largest food packaging cleaning center

  • 2022-02-09

Recyclable packaging company Ringo has launched an open tender for the construction of the largest food packaging cleaning and hygiene center in Northern Europe. The cleaning center will start operating in April and will be able to handle up to one million units of packaging every month.

The total value of the investment exceeds 300,000 euros. The Environmental Investment Center is supporting the creation of the Ringo Eco network of cleaning centers and packaging return system with a total of 108,000 euros.

“Through a tender, we want to purchase a washing line based on the best technology, which uses ozone to clean the packaging in a way similar to the drinking water treatment process, and where the packaging is sterilized with UV light. The result, close to medical purity, today exceeds the hygienic requirements for cleaning the working surfaces on food production. We measure the purity with luminometers common in Estonia, and the purity level remains below 15 RLUs, which is 2-3 times better than the result of home dishwashing,” said Janek Balõnski, co-founder of Ringo Eco.

The cleaning center will be located on Betooni Street in Tallinn, where premises are currently being prepared for it. “The new center will have 30 people working at full capacity. The washing center currently processes plastic food packaging, but in the future, it will be possible to clean glass packaging there as well,” Balõnski said.

More than 3 million coffee cups are used in Estonia every month. “If we stop using only these disposable coffee cups, every major city will need a cleaning center like this one. We are currently preparing for the first food manufacturers to join our packaging recycling system, and in the spring, we hope to start processing recyclable packaging of well-known brands,” noted Janek Balõnski.

One major challenge is to reduce packaging waste at large scale outdoor events. The main event organizer of the Tartu Marathon, Indrek Kelk, was one of the pioneers in reducing the use of single-use food packaging in Estonia: “Together with young people, I have been cleaning roadside ditches in our country for 20 years. If the environmental pollution in Estonia had a name and a face, it would be that of a disposable coffee cup. Someone has to put an end to this, and reuse is a natural solution to the problem.”

Ringo Eco and the Tartu Marathon have recently concluded a cooperation agreement on the use of reusable packaging in the organization of all events of the Tartu Marathon this year. “This year, there will be no trash in the finish area. We are also looking into ways to eliminate single-use packaging at the drinking stations on the track in the future,” commented Indrek Kelk.

So far, 50 restaurants have joined Ringo Eco reusable packaging system. Lunches for employees of four manufacturing enterprises are delivered in reusable packaging. Every week new catering companies join the system, and soon two retail chains will launch the service for their buffets.

“If at least one million units of single-use packaging will not reach the market, 2022 will probably be the first year of reusable packaging in Estonia. Change starts with catering, but every apartment association and commercial building can contribute by ordering a return container for reusable packaging. Today, more than 100 buildings already have such containers next to their trash cans. Their contents end up in the cleaning center, after which the packaging is returned to the restaurants,” added Janek Balõnski.

In the first open round of the funding campaign, Ringo Eco raised 500,000 euros. Several leading Estonian private and venture investors such as SuperAngels VC, Martin Villig, Lauri Meidla, Mõjufond of Heateo foundation and six other private Estonian investors took part in the round. With the raised funds, Ringo will build packaging cleaning centres, expand the network of return points, and prepare to provide services to large customers. This spring, it is planned to organize another funding tour to start international expansion.