Zume makes the Zume Pizza delivery vans that use hyper-efficient ovens to make pizzas as it delivers them to you. And now the company is acquiring Pivot Packaging, which makes compostable packaging, to eliminate plastic in the food delivery business.

Zume said the deal will enable it to give brands a cost-competitive alternative to plastic. Along with the acquisition of Pivot Packaging — with whom Zume designed its Pizza Pod — Zume is launching a 70,000-square-feet plant in Southern California dedicated to manufacturing plant-based packaging for global food brands. The company wants to make its plant-based packaging as good as plastic.

With the acquisition of Pivot and launch of the packaging plant, Zume wants to replace a billion plastic containers by 2020 with sustainable, plant-based food and beverage containers.

Most importantly for businesses, that sustainable packaging will be at or below the cost of plastic versions — enabling companies to go green without going into the red, as the company said.

Currently, Zume Packaging customers include one of the world’s leading airlines, a $5 billion U.S. food service brand, and one of the world’s largest food conglomerates.

The United Nations Environment Programme reports that 300 million tons of plastic waste is generated globally each year. Of that, only 9% is recycled, leaving more than 90% to crowd landfills and waterways or to be incinerated, which releases carbon and toxic air pollution.

Even worse, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimated that plastic production is expected to double in 20 years and almost quadruple by 2050, driven in part by global food delivery, which relies on plastic containers and bags. According to a UBS report, the global food delivery business will grow more than 10 times, from $35 billion in 2018 to $365 billion by 2030.

“A more sustainable food future must start with packaging. That’s why we’re teaming with some of the world’s leading food brands to reach our goal of eliminating plastic and styrofoam in fresh foods and food delivery,” said Zume’s CEO Alex Garden, in a statement. “Food delivery is upending the food system as we know it, and we believe that the powerful consumer demand signals it generates can be a force creating a more sustainable world. Food packaging is a huge part of this equation because it not only provides critical consumption data but it also provides useful information from the farm where its materials are sourced to the final disposal.”

Zume Packaging repurposes agricultural waste from sources such as bagasse (sugarcane fiber), bamboo, wheat, straw, and other organic fibers. In an effort to reach its larger goal of eliminating plastic and styrofoam in fresh foods and food delivery, Zume has set an initial target of replacing one billion plastic and styrofoam food containers by 2020.

Zume makes pizza while delivering it to you.

Above: Zume makes pizza while delivering it to you.

Image Credit: Zume

The use of agricultural waste significantly reduces water and energy use, with lower carbon emissions in its production and disposal than plastic and styrofoam. After use, Zume’s compostable packaging breaks down into organic material and can be put to use to regenerate soil or other organic matter. In essence, the packaging creates a fully closed-loop cycle where the food that is grown creates the input materials for the packaging that carries food to the consumer, and then, once it’s used, helps to grow more food.

Prior to the introduction of Zume Packaging, compostable packaging could not mirror the adaptability and durability characteristics of plastic and has been up to 50% to 100% more expensive than plastic. Zume Packaging addresses these challenges by utilizing cutting-edge manufacturing technology and material science. The company has a proprietary set of formulas and forming and finishing processes to create moldable fiber that is intended to maintain the freshness and quality of perishable food compared to paper-based packaging.

The company is driving down the cost with a new flexible manufacturing cell technology production technique for the molded fiber that is capable of producing unique shapes with higher yields and faster cycle times than traditional manufacturing methods.