Meet Pyxo, a French startup that has been thinking a lot about single-use plastic food packaging for the past three years. The company wants to offer a service that makes it as easy and as cost-efficient to use reusable food storage containers at scale.
The idea behind Pyxo comes from a fair at the Tuileries gardens in Paris. Right next to the food stands, waste bins were overflowing with soda cups, clamshell burger containers and various single-use food packaging.
At first, the company started working with French corporate catering service company Sodexo. They worked with them to replace plastic cups and make everything reusable. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the switch to remote work, Pyxo started looking for other potential clients.
But Pyxo’s biggest market opportunity comes from a regulatory change. In July 2020, France’s parliament passed an anti-waste law with some drastic changes. Restaurants have to switch to reusable food containers by January 2023.
It means that fast food restaurant chains won’t be able to use paper-and-plastic cups, disposable clamshell boxes, etc. Pyxo is already working with an unnamed fast food chain in France to help them switch to reusable packaging.
The startup has created a sort of marketplace of reusable food containers that connect every company in the industry. When a fast food restaurant buy a batch of containers, they all come with a QR code or NFC chip to track them everywhere.
Restaurants can outsource cleaning to specialized companies who can give you a batch of clean containers when they come and pick up the containers of the day. These contracting companies also scan containers, cups and whatever they are cleaning.
In addition to that, customers could also order take-out food and bring it home in reusable containers. They could use an app to find the nearest collection point — it doesn’t necessarily have to be the restaurant where you originally ordered your food. Pyxo is thinking about gamification and small deposits to incentivize returns.
“Our vision is that it’s an infrastructure industry,” co-founder and CEO Benjamin Peri told me. Pyxo thinks it is building a network that works just like the electrical grid. Down the road, the startup believes there will be a dense network of restaurants, collection points and cleaning centers.
Fast food chains could help kickstart the industry because a single client has a ton of restaurants around the country. They could incentivize other actors to participate in the network with Pyxo acting as the network operator.
The company is just getting started as there are only a few restaurants actively using Pyxo right now. But the startup has raised a $7.9 million (€7 million) funding round from Eurazeo, FiveSeasons Ventures and others.
On January 1st, 2023, the startup expects to work with 2,000 points of sales in the restaurant industry alone. Pyxo still expects to work with foodtech companies and corporate catering services, but they would represent a smaller part of the business. With today’s funding round, the company expects to recruit 70 additional employees.