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Wrap it up rethought

Wrap it up rethought
Photo: © UdK

PE stretch film for wrapping trolleys is used everywhere where goods are delivered. The problem is that it is only used once and then thrown away. Designer Lukas Henneberger has come up with an alternative with his Wrap it up project - and won the Bundespreis Ecodesign. We paid him a visit and took a look.  
 

Text Boris Messing       

 

We drive past high prison walls towards our destination. Jakob Timpe's design studio is located in a quiet street just a short walk from Moabit Prison. Secure and stable packaging is also on the agenda today, albeit packaging of a more everyday kind. We meet Lukas Henneberger, Jakob Timpe's assistant and recent UdK graduate, in his boss's studio to be shown his design project Wrap it up, for which he won the Bundespreis Ecodesign in the "Young Talent" category.

Lukas greets us with a casual "hello" and leads us past the design objects on display into a large back room where he keeps a box with exhibits from Wrap it up. Wrap it up, he explains, was created in the context of his first semester project at the UdK. The project brief was to come up with a design idea for the supermarket of the future. The only requirement: the use of the plastic TPU (more on this in a moment). We sit down at the table where the box with the exhibits is already waiting, and Lukas starts by telling us how he came up with the idea for his project. For research purposes, he visited a branch of Biocompany and Edeka to talk to the store management and observe operations. This gave him the idea: Stretch film. Or rather: a replacement for it. He wanted to do something useful from the outset. "I didn't want to do something that would solve a problem that wasn't actually there. I wanted to find a real problem," he explains. PE stretch film is one such problem.



Samples of Wrap it up. Photos: UdK
 

In supermarkets in Europe alone, 1.5 million tons of single-use stretch film are used every year to wrap fully loaded trolleys. The stretch film keeps the trolley stable and ensures that the goods delivered to the supermarket do not fall off. An average supermarket produces around 183,000 square meters of PE stretch film waste per year, which is equivalent to around thirty soccer pitches. Theoretically, the plastic composite polyethylene (PE) is recyclable, but Lukas points out: "Recycling is an inflationary term. In practice, PE stretch film is simply thrown into the plastic waste and later incinerated in landfill." Especially as PE is difficult to separate into its constituent materials. Wrap it up, he says, is a good alternative.

Lukas takes the orange exhibits out of the box and explains how Wrap it up works. His TPU stretch device serves the same purpose as PE stretch film, he says: it is designed to stabilize the trolleys and protect the goods from falling off. Unlike PE stretch film, however, his device is attached to the trolleys with eight clips. The TPU film, which is connected to the clips, can be used several times and is flexible, tear-resistant and food-safe, i.e. harmless. The film can be attached to one or more sides as required and simply folded up after use. A simple but practical idea. The entire device, says Lukas, is made of TPU, a plastic that, like PE, consumes natural resources in its production, but has the advantage that it can be very hard, but also very thin and flexible and, incidentally, can be welded very well. Welding? Yes, plastic can be welded - with the help of a sonotrode. "The sonotrode goes onto the film and vibrates so quickly that the particles in the film bond together," Lukas explains. 





Top: This is what it looks like at the end. Middle: Lukas checks the samples. Bottom: Can also be used as a shower curtain if necessary. Photos: Tim Schütze


Wrap it up is available in different sizes and shapes. Theoretically, bioplastics can also be used for the device. But these materials are not yet stable enough, says Lukas. It is not yet possible to say exactly how often Wrap it up can be used before it breaks, as there is still a lack of practical tests. Such tests would first have to go through a number of regulations in order to guarantee the safety of his device. But Lukas is convinced of his idea. Anyone who has ever wrapped a trolley with stretch film, he says, knows how laborious it can be. The trolley often turns as it is wrapped, and it is not uncommon for the film to become electrically charged. Wrap it up, on the other hand, is easy to apply, can be used several times and is completely recyclable once the product has died, as no toxic adhesives are used. And another advantage: using TPU leaves little waste in the production process.

The Bundespreis Ecodesign has drawn attention to Lukas' idea. He would like to use this attention to commercialize his idea, he says. It's a question of scalability, costs and extended application. Wrap it up, he says, is by no means finished yet. His idea could certainly be extended, for example to pallets. In addition to supermarkets, hotels or trade fairs would also be potential customers; trolleys are used practically everywhere where goods are delivered. He is currently in talks with an investor, but he immediately makes it clear that this is "not ready to go".

He doesn't have to worry about his future for the time being, as he was offered a teaching position at the Academy of Fashion and Design before he won the prize. Nevertheless, he would like to set up his own business with Wrap it up in the long term. In the middle of the year, he wants to apply for a scholarship from Creative Prototyping at the UdK in order to continue his project. The chances aren't too bad, he says with a smile. As we say goodbye, we ask him what feedback has pleased him the most and he answers without hesitation: "The best thing was that people who don't really have anything to do with design liked my idea straight away and understood it immediately." He then packs the exhibits back into the box and accompanies us outside. We get back on our bikes and ride off - well wrapped up and protected from the wind.

Category: Innovation & Vision

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