MIWA’s account manager Nikola Stiskalkova, talks to NESTA about their inspiration and participation in The European Social Innovation Award.

How were you inspired to challenge plastic waste?

‘In MIWA, we all share the vision of a simple, straight-forward, packaging free shopping experience. For a long time, we have all been trying to figure out a way to bring an easy solution that would be suitable for a retailer of every size and as easy to use as possible.

We’ve all experienced that stressful situation, when you just refuse to buy something, only because it’s buried in plastic. We’ve also seen many, more or less successful attempts, to change the current situation but they all had their flaws which meant that their wide adaptation would be very hard or even impossible.

That’s why we decided to rethink the way things are done and bring a solution that covers the shopping process from the very beginning, waste-free.’

‘We believe that waste prevention – or PRE-CYCLING – is the way to go. But the fact is, that buying packaging-free food requires an extra effort, like for instance, going to a specialized store. Why? Mainly because there have been, and still is, plenty of barriers which prevent bigger retailers to sell bulk.

The logistic ones, the ones connected to effectiveness and – mainly – the hygienic ones.

As an answer, MIWA created a complex retail solution based on a clean and effective way of selling the goods without packaging. A solution based on a circular economy, smart technology and reusable containers rotating in closed loops.’

Tell us the story of your project. How did you settle on this solution?

MIWA company was found at the beginning of 2014. The CEO and the main “visionary” of our project, Petr Báča, had been creating packaging solutions for different companies before, so he actually had the first-hand experience with the strengths and the dark sides of packaging.’

‘Step by step, Petr built a team of a few designers, programmers and technological developers. The intensive work, full of consulting, re-evaluations and testing, took almost 5 years. Finally, MIWA team has developed a standardized reusable packaging, which works hand in hand with the unique electronic dispensers that are placed in the shops.

Thanks to the data-driven operational efficiency and the focus on quality tracking and communication, the system enables so-called packaging-free sale, also for the large brand owners and retailers.’

‘This year, we are launching our first pilot project. We believe MIWA will improve modern supermarkets and help the formation of the brand-new shops. We aim to connect producers and retailers in the best way possible and create a community of people who will want to take part in finding the solution for minimising waste.’

What have you enjoyed most about your experience with the European Social Innovation Competition and how will you apply that learning to your project moving forward?

‘We really enjoyed the feeling of all being on the same boat and not as some competition rivals. All participants were really one team with the same target.

The openness and the overall positive spirit was simply overwhelming! We  appreciate the many benefits – putting certain topics on the paper, analysing them in a structured way and quantifying them gave us a totally different view of our work.  We have even used some of the outputs in the documentation for investors already! And we hope to further cultivate the new friendships – in a form of a mutual support or as future business partnerships.’