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New European Bauhaus Start-up Crafting Future: "There is no future without plastic"

In this third episode, we meet Lennart Heyner, co-founder of the German startup Crafting Future. Together with Norbite (SW), Nabo Farm (DK) and Inoqo (AU), Crafting Future is part of the first cohort of the New European Bahaus booster program.

10 Nov 2022
6 min reading time

 Aesthetics, sustainability, circularity, and inclusiveness are the building blocks to deliver the European Green Deal to promote sustainability and higher social values in our cities. EIT Food leads the EIT Community in the framework of the New European Bauhaus (NEB) mission to address urban food systems challenges. Through its booster program, it supports selected startups that match the NEB Values, scaling them up such that their ideas reach new markets. 

In this third episode, we meet Lennart Heyner, co-founder of the German startup Crafting Future. Together with Norbite (SW), Nabo Farm (DK) and Inoqo (AU), Crafting Future is part of the first cohort of the New European Bahaus booster program.

Can you tell us a bit more about Crafting Future?

Crafting Future makes sustainable, reusable, and beautiful containers from recycled plastic for the food industry. We want to end the use of single-use containers by not only providing a reusable one instead but also setting up a clever system that allows the containers to be exchanged and turned in elsewhere,” explains Lennart Heyner.

“We got the initial idea on vacation in Southeast Asia. We felt shocked after seeing the beaches being flooded with single-use plastics. Back in Germany, we started making reusable cups made from PLA. We launched our B2C brand and since then, we created an entire portfolio of jars, boxes, bento boxes, and so on,” he continues, “After a while, companies started to approach us as they saw we were committed to using sustainable materials. One of them was reCup, the largest private provider of a reusable coffee cup system in Germany. They were looking for a company that could design and produce reusable food containers. We decided to go for it, got investors on board and this is where we are today.”

"We want to end the use of single-use containers"

- Lennart Heyner, co-founder of Crafting Future

From a circular economy point of view: what materials do you use and how long do they last?

“Initially, we tried to upcycle by using innovative materials such as rice husk and wheat straw. But despite being more sustainable, they are unfortunately also less durable,” explains Heyner.“ The material loses its structure after 200 using cycles and breaks down. The truth is that we put a lot of energy into the production, but the performance doesn’t live up to the time and money investment.”

“We’re aware that everybody hates plastic, but it’s an insanely good material”, he continues, “It’s durable, it has longevity, you can’t scratch it as easily, etc. We realised that there is no future without plastic.”

“Instead, we decided to change the way we use our plastic. We approach our business and products from a circular point of view: from the start we keep the end in mind. Conventional plastic has a lifespan of up to 500 cycles, and after that, we take it back to recycle it in our closed recycling system”, he laughs. “This way, we can guarantee that it’s not contaminated with other types of plastic. We recycle the plastic to produce the same type of bowls again. We believe that these types of loops are the future. Additionally, recycling as a service or recycled materials as a service has big potential too.”

"We recycle the plastic to produce the same type of bowls again. We believe that these types of loops are the future. Additionally, recycling as a service or recycled materials as a service has big potential too"

- Lennart Heyner, co-founder of Crafting Future

How will your business be sustainable?

“As of the 1st of January 2023, every restaurant in Germany has to offer a reusable food container for take away food or doggy bags at the same price point as the single use version”, Heyner says. “This makes it impossible to hand out re-useable containers for free. Instead, it triggers reuse systems. This is a huge business opportunity for us. It will start in Germany, but countries as France, the Netherlands and Spain will follow the legislation in the coming years. By then we will have learned a lot from our experience in Germany.”

“Currently, there are several different reuse systems operational in the market. For example our client reCup, has a system with between 11.000 and 12.000 points of sales; in this context that means participating restaurants”, he states. “So, when I’m in Berlin and want some coffee, I get it in a takeaway cup. Once I finish my coffee I simply hand it in in another participating restaurant. I do not produce any trash nor do I pay for it because I get my 1 euro deposit back when I hand in the cup.”

“We, as Crafting Future, close that entire loop: we produce those reusable cups and containers locally in Germany. We took the feedback of restaurants into account, to design them in a way that they are optimized for restaurants: they are super light, easy to stack, robust and leak proof”, he says proudly. ”Companies come to us for either white label products or custom designs as we're super. For each process we can create new prototypes in 4 to 6 days and 3D-print them. Once the client approves the prototype, we start producing them. As a one stop shop, we earn our profit on the production.”

“As of the 1st of January 2023, every restaurant in Germany has to offer a reusable food container [...] at the same price point as the single use version [...] it triggers reuse systems. This is a huge business opportunity for us"

- Lennart Heyner, co-founder of Crafting Future

How did you decide on the aesthetic of your brand?

“Firstly, the product has to be functional: they have to be leak proof or can’t break immediately otherwise we’re not sustainable”, says Heyner. “Secondly, we wanted to give the functionality a certain timeless and minimalist kind of sexiness. The idea is that you can use them now, but also in 10 and up to 50 years.”

“We chose the colour blue because it matches our branding and have a cool vibe. We want our users to be proud when they use them”, he explains. “That’s one of our strategies to make the brand popular and encourage people to actually use and reuse it multiple times. We want our products to circulate.”

What are your challenges?

“Creating a leakproof bowl was a bigger challenge than we’d expect,” Heyner laughs. “It took us one year to create it and that wasn’t an easy ride. At one point, we were testing with a certain model and our clients got back to us complaining that the bowls turned green and yellow. That felt so bad, because at that time we had invested so much money and time. But we persevered and eventually got it right.”

“As a people centered business, a challenge we face is finding highly skilled people”, he sighs. “We partially solved this problem by becoming a fully remote company. But with a small team of 22 people, there is still a lot of work on every shoulder. If someone’s ill, there's nobody else who can do their job, yet. We really need people with a lot of drive, who want to make a huge impact. Luckily, our concept is working, because 70 to 80% of our younger partners start the sales conversation with the question if they can work with us.”

“I’d say that cash flow, crucial for every business, is another challenge we face at any time. We have three different products, produced every day, every hour. But if one tool breaks and the product cannot be produced, we cannot deliver it, which means we won't get paid”, he explains. “This happened once and for two months an entire product line wasn't produced, transported or sold. Out of the blue, we had no money. That was hard. So, it's always about risk management and having a plan B and a plan C to be prepared when something fails.”

As a final question: what are your expectations from the NEB Booster Program?

“We hope to achieve more visibility in the European Union as it might inspire other countries at the EU level to create reusable packaging laws in other countries than Germany”, Heyner says. “I know there's already this directive, but it should be properly implemented by law. And secondly, it would be great to build our network and get more European clients so that our products can circulate everywhere.”


Curious to get to know how the other NEB startups help to create a more sustainable future? Read our summary article or explore our interview series with them.

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