Author Archives: Tom

Dash runs out of road

How value exchange is key when designing a disruptive service

We at Vesta were never much fans of the Dash button, and we weren’t alone. When you have to assure the world that your product isn’t an April Fool’s joke, it must be a rough day to work in marketing. Now the dash buttons are being withdrawn, there is value in assessing why this ambitious and bold, but flawed product missed out on mainstream adoption.

Dash was never claiming environmental credentials to be fair to it, but the rather glib one-button re-ordering of all that packaging was one of the things that inspired Vesta’s creation. However, the main reason behind its demise is about the experience and value it offered. A consideration of value exchange offers a useful way to understand service adoption, and we’ve voiced our concerns about Terracycle’s Loop in a similar way.

What did Dash offer? Simple ordering and a potential time saver. Sounds good, but what did it ask for?

  • Own a button per product
  • Don’t lose or break any of the buttons
  • (at some point) recharge the buttons (we never quite understood how that would work)
  • Restrict button access to responsible individuals
  • Buy the buttons in the first place

Listed like that, the convenience Dash was trying to deliver was clearly more than offset by the  demands the service made on its users. A really disruptive service must offer more than it takes to be successful. The iPod is a wonderful example of this. It asked us to effectively burn most of our invested capital in music collections and go digital. For those of us with a giant pile of CDs (we might be showing our age here!), there was a process of copying them all to MP3. One by one. Which took hours.

But we did it, because it offered more. All of everything we wanted to listen to. Anywhere. It outweighed the inconvenience of the change.

At Vesta, our packages offer fully automated re-ordering that is completely integrated. A single scan of our packages through Vesta’s store room application is the only step end-users need to take, and everything else is taken care of. It remains to be seen if our value exchange is the right one for mass adoption, but we believe that combining real convenience with the chance to eliminate single-use plastic is one that will work.

Amazon scraps Dash buttons

Amazon scraps Dash buttons

Amazon stops selling its Dash buttons because shoppers are using other methods to buy products.

Source: www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-47416440

Don’t shoot the messenger

BP’s energy report looks alarming, but has some interesting insight for those looking to tackle the plastic problem

It’s easy to demonise big oil, especially when they publish something that seems as nakedly self-serving as an opposition to a plastics ban. However, the BP 2019 energy outlook doesn’t look like quite such a whitewash.

The point they seem to be making is that simply replacing plastics won’t necessarily be a big win for the environment, if it fails to be accompanied by systemic changes to infrastructure and fulfilment. The good folk at Herriot Watt university have done some solid-looking work to support this too. The energy involved in making glass, for example, would be a real problem if we had to make the half- trillion bottles a year currently made with plastic this way.

At Vesta we, cautiously, agree with this. We need a more intelligent packaging solution that allows us to make efficient use of the materials available. Our connected devices allow for orders to be made when they’re needed, and provide a permanent home for whatever they’re storing. This allows our customers to look at short life packaging for transit, allowing us to provide convenience for consumers and a viable business model for manufacturers.

A reduction in plastic use is essential, but we will have to think about smart solutions. We must make sure we change to a method of packaging our products which provides a lasting benefit for everyone.

Plastic ban could backfire says BP

Plastic ban could backfire says BP

The oil and gas company believes a prohibition on single-use plastic could increase CO2, but is that true?

Source: www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47255249

Towels and Netflix: how hotel stays and film nights provide a model for sustainable change.

There have been major changes in my lifetime. My phone used to be attached to a wall in the hallway of the house I grew up in, for example, whereas now I don’t even have a landline. Technology facilitates changes in behaviour, so that what was once commonplace becomes rapidly antiquated.

At Vesta Smart Packaging, we are trying to facilitate one such change. Our packages monitor and report how full they are, reordering automatically. They will change the way that people and businesses shop for day-to-day essentials, so that we can cut single-use plastic out of the supply chain. It is an intimidating challenge, but we are encouraged by examples of changes made by other businesses which have had a major environmental impact (whether they intended it or not).

On a recent holiday, I saw the now-ubiquitous sign asking that the towels in the hotel be reused. All over the world, hotels now use these signs to save countless millions of unnecessary washes. And it feels like it happened overnight. A simple confluence of ideas that improved efficiency and helped the environment was enough to affect global change.

Later that evening, I watched a couple of episodes on Netflix, and was struck for the first time by the environmental impact that it and other streaming services have had. DVD sales, and trips to rental shops, have declined massively – almost completely in the latter case – and the plastic savings must be enormous. But it was never intended that way. Streaming services offered convenience, and choice, and almost immediately eradicated the old way of watching films on hard copy, which has gone from commonplace to exceptional.

The adoption and usage of smart packaging to cut single-use plastic in supply chains will be a similarly massive change. However, as we develop our product – combining convenience for consumers and efficiency for businesses, these two simple examples provide much needed encouragement, and demonstrate that behavioural change at this scale is eminently possible.

Return of the milk bottle

Plastic pollution is suddenly in the public eye, with everyone from legislative bodies such as the EU (though recent delays are a concern), to David Attenborough highlighting the appalling scale of the problem.

 

Recyclable one-use packaging – whilst welcome – looks unlikely to be enough to stem the tide of waste. The reduction in plastic content of disposables can be easily matched or exceeded by an extended period of reuse, and by adopting smart-packaging built to be re-used.

 

Companies and consumers alike need to spearhead the widespread adoption, or re-adoption, of reusable packaging. Simply using the same package twenty times would reduce plastic waste by 95%.

This is not an entirely new idea. Most people over the age of thirty remember the widespread use of milk bottles, which subsequently disappeared. There are a number of reasons for this, but what has changed since the demise of the milkman, is the widespread use of personal delivery and the availability of connected platforms that can more effectively manage the process.

 

It’s time for the milk bottle to make a comeback.