To slow the spread of COVID-19 in the population, the Lao government declared the first national lockdown from late March to early May 2020. During that time, the Accelerator Lab observed an increase in food delivery orders and household waste. In barely three weeks, the popularity of food distribution sky-rocketed. The main food delivery companies in Laos, Go Teddy and Food Panda, reported that the number of online orders increased from 100-200 to 1,200-2,000 a day in less than two months.
Moreover, the number of local restaurants and small shops registered on both platforms also increased by three folds, from 50 in January 2020 to 150 in May 2020. The jump in the amount of plastic waste from food delivery packages surely worsened the waste situation. Similar trends were also observed in other ASEAN countries like Singapore and Thailand.
Why partner with Go Teddy
Following an interview with Mr. Pasong Lattana, Chief Executive Officer of Go Teddy, we decided to cooperate. It was exciting to join hands with a local start-up entrepreneur who expressed a strong interest in addressing single-use plastic waste issue.
Go Teddy started in 2018 and is an award-winning smartphone based Super App offering a wide range of services including food delivery, online shopping, parcel delivery and much more. Their services cover Vientiane Capital, Pakse and Savannakhet Provinces. By working with GoTeddy and their affiliated restaurants, we had the opportunity to set new standards and educate consumers on plastic pollution.
Our learning journey: UNDP x Go Teddy
The Accelerator Lab and Go Teddy teams began to brainstorm and plan the experiment in November 2020. A pre-survey for customers and restaurant partners was developed and launched in January 2021. 40 restaurant partners of Go Teddy expressed interest to join the experiment in testing opt-in feature for more eco-friendly packaging. The survey results showed that all of them used plastic containers and plastic bags every day! Less than 26% of the respondents reused or recycled plastic products, but more than 90% wanted to try when asked if more environmentally friendly packages are available. Similarly, the responses of “yes” outnumbered the “maybe” for customers who preferred #ECOSAFE packaging!
Figure 1 #GOECO timeline December 2020-March 2021
The technical team of Go Teddy had 90 days to develop and test the in-app features. Here’s how it works.
Customers can choose to order from participating restaurants with the #ECOSAFE tab. An eco-friendly opt-in feature in the app alerts the restaurants and riders that the customer has requested eco-friendly packaging. The customer can read more about the project by clicking on the button “learn more” or by scanning the QR code on the takeaway box or cotton tote bag. In the first experiment, no extra charge was applied for this option.
Call for local packaging producers
Food graded and eco-friendly packaging products were carefully selected for this campaign. While in search of local producers, Eco Plates was initially identified by the Accelerator Lab. Unfortunately, the products were not suitable for delivery since they still had flaws such as leakage from improper lid design, size, and unreliable raw material supply. Hence, only costly packaging products from Thailand could be used. Partner restaurants received the packages and training prior to the launch and during the 2-month experimentation.
Testing and preliminary results
We launched the function and the #GOECO campaign in February 2021.
Initially, it was hoped that 20 % of participating restaurants would turn to eco-friendly packaging as a result of this campaign. According to the findings of the post-campaign poll, the majority of them would prefer to convert, but only if the packaging price was inexpensive and subsidized.
Aside from price, two other important considerations were packing sizes and availability in the local market. However, by engaging in this initiative, all participating restaurants and workers increased awareness on plastic waste. To their surprise, new information has been discovered as some of them thought paper cups and bowls are eco-friendly, not knowing that these products have thin layers of plastic coating. Most importantly, they received positive feedback from customers, which resulted in increased sales.
This could be backed up by our almost real-time tracking system and satellite imagery. Those provided more insights for us to learn more about customers in terms of locations, income, most ordered food and time. 746 #ECOSAFE orders were confirmed out of a total of 2015 during February to March 2021. Users showed an increase of awareness after the first 45 days, with #ECOSAFE activity increasing by 86.5%. On the last day of the experiment, the average number of orders captured at 133. 54% of users used this feature during lunchtime (12:00-13:00). 78 new restaurants reached out to join #GoEco after the launch!