Spent Innovations provides a more sustainable option to current takeout containers. COVID-19 has changed the way we eat at restaurants, promoting takeout over dining inside. Our daily habits have become more wasteful, and it is time that there is a solution that allows consumers a guiltless eating out experience. Spent Innovation's products are composed of breweries' spent grain and agar-based bio-plastic, which rapidly decomposes in any traditional compost. Say goodbye to microplastics, styrofoam debris, and compostable products that only decompose in industrial-grade composting facilities.
Spent Innovations grew from a project in the Advanced Product Design class at the University of Colorado Boulder. Working with a team of fellow engineers in the M.S. Mechanical Engineering and Design Program, we began our mission to find solutions to unmet needs in the restaurant business by talking with everyday consumers, staff, and owners. We did not want to make another product that had no purpose and ultimately contributed to more waste in the industry. Finding that the COVID-19 pandemic had fundamentally changed how we eat out, we began to develop our need statement…
“Restaurants need an environmentally and economically sustainable method of packaging take-out food that preserves quality."
The Spent brand needed to have an identifiable shape that could represent the values of this project. The hexagon is a form that often appears in nature (honeycomb, sea foam, snowflakes, etc.), and this is because there is utility behind the shape. Hexagons are structurally supportive and can be packed neatly into larger forms. Both of these properties are useful in takeout packaging because you certainly do not want your food to fall on the ground and efficiently packing containers being shipped to the restaurant saves on money and emissions.
To sell in a competitive market, the Spent containers needed features that could contribute to a recognizable form. The family of packaging from Spent featured three unique options: the large entrée, the lunch/salad, and the cupcake/side dish. All options included concave corners on either side to easily remove the snap-on lid, a lid extrusion that snaps to the base of other containers for easy carrying options for more than one dish, and a tapered sides to stack base for storage before use.
Several materials were tested and developed throughout the creation of the Spent Innovations family of takeout containers. Different formulas for potato starch, corn starch, agar, and gelatin based bio-plastics were tried and tested, and from this research, our team concluded that a bio-plastic made from agar had the most potential for packaging food items with different moisture characteristics. To provide structural integrity and strength, a proprietary brewer's spent grain/agar composite was developed for the outer layer of the base. This material was compressed and formed using a custom, 3D printed mold (seen below). The final product featured an agar bio-plastic lid and lining to prevent material failure with watery foods, and the outer layer of the base was made from a pressed spent grain/agar composite.