Zero waste practitioners (and those looking to practice a greener lifestyle) have something new to look forward to: the introduction of Tuppy, Malaysia’s own reusable container startup.
As we have seen over the Movement Control Order (MCO), more Malaysian food businesses are catering to the increase of consumer demand for food delivery. However, the issue of waste (much of it single-use plastic) generated by food delivery services has also become an issue.
We speak with the people behind Tuppy to find out more about the product and how they’re positioning their startup in this landscape.
The three of you form a young group of entrepreneurs. Tell us a bit about yourselves and the role you play in the company.
Lee Min Xiang: Yes, we’re a young startup and learning every day! My main role as founder is to drive our mission and form strategic partnerships with the relevant stakeholders in the public and private sectors, and civil society. It goes without saying that as a startup, we all do a little bit of everything as well haha.
Lim Su Jane: I’m the shy/introverted one, so I mostly work in the backend. I’m in charge of Tuppy’s branding and putting together all the tech needed for the company to exist online.
Tan Hung Jet: I focus on user acquisition for Tuppy. I manage Tuppy’s ad campaigns and do my best to yield optimum results (signups, opt-ins) at the lowest cost possible. But like what Min Xiang has mentioned, we do get involved in everything as we believe in the importance of collaborating and exchanging ideas!
How did the three of you get together to form Tuppy? Why?
LSJ: We actually know each other from university (Soka University of America).
THJ: We met up for a Christmas dinner reunion last year and talked about our 2020 goals, which was the starting point that put this whole idea in motion.
LMX: I’ve been toying with this idea since 2017 when the No Straw campaign was gaining momentum. I thought that was a good start, and that we can think bigger and reduce single-use plastic containers next. Coming back to our reunion, I decided to make 2020 my year and get Tuppy started with Su Jane and Hung Jet.
Tell us your vision for Tuppy.
LMX: Our vision is to create a clean and habitable world for all living beings. We achieve this by creating sustainable systems that empower humanity to protect our world. The Tuppy returnable food container system is just the beginning.
Who do you see as your main target audience?
THJ: The first 1,000 will definitely be people who are more environmentally conscious. People who already actively bring their own bags when grocery shopping, or people who bring their own containers when buying food to-go.
LMX: The next group would be the general population who use food delivery services.
What are the benefits for consumers to use Tuppy?
THJ: For one, users of Tuppy will be able to immediately enjoy a healthier way of eating, as our Tuppy containers are tested to not contain harmful chemicals like BPA and phthalates that may accumulate and harm the body over a long period of time. The second benefit would be the ability to have a convenient done-for-you system that will help you lead a zero-waste lifestyle.
What are the benefits for merchants to use Tuppy?
LMX: Food partners will be able to attract a new group of eco-conscious customers and increase brand loyalty by choosing our returnable containers. If they have a collection capsule placed at their business location, it will also drive dine-in foot traffic and provide them a chance to build relationships with their customers.
Where are the key areas of focus for Tuppy in this launch phase?
LMX: Since this is a new concept, we’ll be focusing on traction to see if this a large enough problem that people care about, and testing and improving our operational processes.
Are you working on partnerships with food delivery apps like Grab and FoodPanda?
LMX: Yes, we are (can’t reveal exactly which platforms yet, still in discussion). We believe every stakeholder plays a role in supporting the environment, and with the collaboration with these platforms, we will be able to make it easy for users to make the right choice.
Where can we see a list of participating food vendors and Tuppy collection points?
LMX: We are currently recruiting and onboarding food businesses to partner with Tuppy, and will be publishing the list in the next month or so. The collection capsules will be located at high rise buildings (office buildings, condos, apartment complexes) and our partners’ restaurants/cafes.
We’ve seen reusable takeout containers in other cities; how does operating in Malaysia differ?
LMX: We will be using separate containers for swine and non-swine food, and all containers will be inspected by us (after washing) and the food vendor (when receiving the containers) for any damages.
Do our food safety laws address the use of Tuppy reusable containers?
LMX: The concept of returnable containers is new in Malaysia. We interpret (Malaysia’s Food Regulations 1985 Act) as meant for consumer packaged food sold in retail stores, and only found 2 subsections that regulate our service. As far as we know, there are no other food safety laws that regulate this space yet. This is the reason why we adhere to the well established US FDA regulations that have been in force since 2017.
What happens at the end of a Tuppy lifecycle? Where does it get recycled?
LMX: The containers will be recycled locally at the end of their lifecycle. We’re researching and consulting people familiar in this area to find a suitable recycling partner. Right now, we are focused on validating the business model (making sure there is demand for our solution), but when selecting a local recycling partner, we’re looking at the transparency in their operations and their sustainability practices. We need to know that we can trust them. There is a list of local recycling plants here that we’ll be vetting through.
A Tuppy container can be reused for 1000+ wash cycles — but how do you keep track of how much lifespan remains in a box returned to you?
LMX: We are currently researching food and microwave safe labels/printing to track each container’s lifespan. However, our users may choose to use the containers on their own outside of the system, so the tracked number might be lower than actual usage.
Why US FDA guidelines?
LMX: As a food operator in the US once, I have a valid US food safety certification that required me to train based on US FDA regulations and HAACP principles. These practices are recognised worldwide. Until we have local food safety regulations for returnable and reusable containers, the US FDA regulations is the gold standard.
What is the environmental impact of manufacturing one Tuppy compared to one single-use takeout container?
THJ: The main difference between a Tuppy container and a single-use takeout container is that in one Tuppy container’s life cycle, it can offset the negative environmental impacts of 1000 single-use containers, provided that the container is to be reused at least 400 times before being recycled.
LSJ: We’re still building our app at this moment and will comply with PDPA regulations.
How does the pandemic impact Tuppy?
LMX: Although the pandemic had delayed our plans to launch, it has also highlighted the waste problem created by single-use containers from food delivery orders. This has made it easier for us to communicate the problem to the public because they have experienced it firsthand over the past 3 months.