Tapauware, the start-up of reusable and returnable food containers from M’sian

be honest; How many times did you order food during MCO? If the answer is above zero, were you aware of how much plastic the food came wrapped in?

It was Daniel Toh for sure.

“It really struck me that something had to change when I got a notification from my Grab app in my annual ‘Year in Cravings’ that I had ordered 217 times in 2021 alone, he admitted to the Vulcan Post.

Daniel is probably not alone in having this problem either. In the year 2020 alone, Malaysia used 148 tons of food packaging, which is the equivalent of billions of containers.

Daniel knew he had to do something about it. He recalled his mother’s treasure trove of “precious, life-long Tupperware containers.” These pots were the heyday of his (and many other’s) childhood. In fact, some of these containers are still in use today.

Why don’t we do the same today I became culture?” Daniel wondered to himself.

Inspiration, he started working on Tapauware.

Entry to Entrepreneurship

Daniel has already had some experience working with green startups as a project builder at Enviu, a nonprofit that relies on companies that address social and environmental issues around the world.

Tapauware is one such company, which he is building as an in-house entrepreneur with his colleagues, Jehan and Nazira.

But before his tenure with Enviu, Daniel was already studying to become an engineer. However, he never trained, after a three-month training period.

Image Credit: Tapauware

“I found out early on that I had an itch for entrepreneurship and decided to make my way towards it since I was a student,” he said. “I’ve also become very aware of all the problems we’ve had as I get older — inequality and pollution, among other things.”

Instead of just complaining, he decided he wanted to be part of the solution. He also referred to the old saying: “Where there are challenges, there are opportunities,” which inspired him to tackle pressing problems through business solutions.

“If unconscious capitalism created many of the issues we have today, perhaps conscious diversity is what we need to organize the world,” he said. “Work, after all, is just a tool.”

Tapao, where? and how?

To order with Tapauware, you first need to register as a user via their website. After paying a refundable RM30 deposit, you will become an official member.

From there, members can use their Tapauware user ID to get food delivered in a reusable container — but only with participating restaurant partners, of course.

Currently, these partners include Spargo Eats and Loop Foods.

“Spargo Eats was the first merchant to believe in our vision, which is why we started with them,” Daniel explained. “They have a great vision for a sustainable food system, and we’re excited to partner with their parent company, Loop Foods.”

Image Credit: Tapauware

According to Daniel, Loop Foods will also launch other food brands on the road that may offer Tapauware services.

With this in mind, Daniel appears keen on partnering with other companies that share Tapauware’s eco-friendly ethos. He agreed that those in line with Tapauware’s sustainable vision are likely early adopters, but the team aims to work with all types of merchants.

“For example, we are trying a different borrowing model with merchants in Shah Alam, where users pay for containers when purchasing their food to reduce the friction of having to register in advance,” he explained. They will get an immediate response when they return [them]. ”

On top of that, Tapauware is also talking to schools and corporate cafeterias to build their containers so lunchtime can be a waste-free affair.

Return to sender

In person, Tapauware sounds like a great idea. However, the only thing stopping me from using it is the returning part.

Currently, users have 14 days to return the container to Tapauware Collection Points. Customers who do not return the borrowed containers within that period will forfeit the RM30 deposit and will need to re-register to be a user again.

While this is a very generous time frame, I find having to travel to a collection point a bit tricky.

Having to travel, in my opinion, nullifies the purpose of the food delivery in the first place, because I would rather drive to a restaurant with my own containers in the first place and never have to return it.

Image Credit: Tapauware

For this, Daniel shared that a large portion of Tapauware’s user base are environmentally conscious individuals but mentioned that they struggle to remember to bring their containers when getting takeaway.

“It also requires planning ahead for their purchases if they want to make sure they don’t use single-use packs, which affects the spontaneity they can enjoy if they don’t worry about waste,” he added.

He believes providing Tapauware solves that pain point.

Anyway, Daniel said Tapauware is considering offering home delivery in the future, which might actually prompt me to start using the service.

Ready meals for the future

Like most local startups, Tapauware is only in the Klang Valley at the moment. It is currently still in its beta stages and learning what merchants need to wholeheartedly embrace reusable materials.

This will take time, as in F&B there are diverse needs among merchants because they all have their own SOPs, business models, types of foods and attitudes toward sustainability.

“We envision eventually working with big players like Grab and foodpanda,” Daniel added. “If someone from Grab, foodpanda, or even Beepit is reading this, we’d love to run a smaller pilot with you.”

But before that, Tapauware first wants to break an efficient system operating model before expanding its business to other areas. Fortunately, as the initiator of the projects, Daniel worked with GIZ, the German agency for international cooperation.

According to Daniel, GIZ and Enviu are working with local government agencies such as the Malaysian Green Technology Center to launch the Collaborative Action for the Prevention of Single-use Plastics in Southeast Asia (CAP SEA).

Image Credit: Tapauware

“The Tapauware is the result of moving toward the goals of this project,” Daniel said. “As part of this, we are working closely with the Shah Alam Municipal Council to determine what it takes for a city to become plastic-free.”

While the plastic-free city achieves a great view, it is certainly a challenging task. Daniel knows this, of course.

“To reach ordinary users, we will need to appeal to more than just people’s environmental awareness,” he said.

He continued, “When we are in an environmentally conscious bubble, it is sometimes difficult to remember that a large segment of the Malaysian population does not yet understand the need to shift away from individual use, whether for environmental or practical reasons.”

I don’t know about you, but I will think twice the next time I order food delivery.

  • Learn more about Tapauware here.
  • Read other articles we have written about here.

Featured Image Credit: Tapauware

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