Ülemiste City cafés and restaurants forgo single-use packaging

Catering service providers in Ülemiste City have decided as one to forgo single-use packaging and will instead be utilising reusable containers for takeaways. This will save more than 200,000 items of single-use packaging every year. Developers Technopolis Ülemiste and Mainor Ülemiste want the business park to become Estonia’s first truly green city.

Photos: Karli Saul

Minister of the Environment Madis Kallas welcomes community initiatives to limit the use of disposable plastics. “Every effort to restrict their use is a significant contribution to reducing plastic pollution in our living environment,” he said. “While the European Union is doing a lot in this regard, and here in Estonia reusable cups and containers will soon become mandatory at public events, it’s still very welcoming to see people being offered the opportunity to buy their lunch in a more environmentally friendly way.”

Tallinn Deputy Mayor Madle Lippus describes Ülemiste City as a perfect example of enterprise for its systematic approach to and the scope of its transition to environmentally friendly solutions. “Just this summer the business park trialled a scheme to provide more space for cyclists, and now they’re starting up this new initiative to forgo single-use packaging,” she said. “Testing things in contained areas is important for Tallinn as well, because in working together we gain sufficiently broad knowhow in terms of whether these changes work and how people take to them.”

Ringo Eco CEO Hannes Falten says that in working with Ülemiste City his company is reducing not just packaging waste from takeaway food, but the business park’s environmental footprint. “Because our reusable containers can survive being washed between 40 and 120 times, we’re stopping a four-storey building’s worth of rubbish being generated annually,” he explained.

Falten added that the exact number of times the containers can be washed depends entirely on how well they are treated. “The life cycle of one of our containers is equivalent to that of 80 single-use containers on average,” he said. “That means the carbon footprint of single-use packaging is four times greater than one of our reusable containers.”

Gert Jostov, the chairman of the management board of Technopolis Ülemiste, says the business park is already a very green space. “That’s because Estonia’s densest network of reusable packaging return points – 40 in total – has formed here,” he explained. “You have to make the green way of life as convenient for people as possible. That’s the only way it will reach the masses. The future of Ülemiste City is being planned in a way that will mean environmentally friendly living isn’t a choice anymore, but the only choice.”

Mati Fjodorov, the head of sustainable development for Ülemiste City, says single-use packaging is no longer sustainable. “We have to break away from linear economic models and integrate circular solutions that are both environmentally and user-friendly,” he advised. “We’ve gotten the cafés and restaurants here in the business park and other talented people involved so that reusable containers become the norm. As a community we consider it really important to prevent the generation of waste and reduce our carbon footprint.”

Ülemiste City (www.ulemistecity.ee) is the biggest business park in the Baltic States. It is home to almost 500 companies, with more than 14,000 people living, working and studying there. A total of 150,000 square metres of leasable office space have been developed across its 36 hectares, along with international education services from kindergartens to universities, international family doctor and health care centres, homes and other everyday facilities and services. Its developers are Mainor AS, Mainor Ülemiste AS and Technopolis Ülemiste AS. Technopolis Ülemiste AS is owned by the Finnish company Technopolis Holding Plc (51%) and AS Mainor Ülemiste (49%).

Photos: Karli Saul