Building a more sustainable world, one meal at a time

Meet Andrew Matthews
Former Vice President

Learn about how lunch with colleagues inspired AlixAlumnus Andrew Matthews to try to build a more sustainable world by reducing the waste caused by takeaway and delivery meals.
Read On
Read On

Can you tell us a bit about your career trajectory?

I began my career in 2013 fresh out of college at the AlixPartners Dallas office in what was then the Information Management Services (IMS) community. As the firm and the practice evolved, this group merged into TRS, DIG, FAS and EI. This mix kind of explains my career at the firm and the “One-firm” aspect of many of AlixPartners’ projects.

Eventually, I moved to London where I sat within the FAS practice but worked on projects for all groups in the firm, ranging from investigations, insurance automation, operational improvements, restructurings and M&A advisory. I worked with a lot of great people at the firm, and truly felt like part of the AlixPartners family, but recently left the firm to found my own company, Re:User.  The idea for the company really came from living the fast-paced lifestyle of a city worker in London, which unfortunately creates a ton of waste from on-the-go, takeaway, delivery meals, and coffees. Although quite convenient, these habits unfortunately create a ton of single-use waste. This inspired me to create avenues for workers to continue their lifestyle, without the single-use waste.

What is Re:User and what are you hoping to achieve?

Re:User is a company on a mission to eliminate single-use takeaway packaging waste via a digitally enabled reusable packaging service. We know that many restaurants rely on single-use containers to provide takeaway and delivery food to consumers, but we also know that these containers are often not recycled and thus remain on earth for hundreds of years, polluting oceans and communities worldwide.  Even those containers that are “biodegradable” or “compostable” don’t actually end up accomplishing their intended purpose; rather, they often contaminate existing food waste and recycling streams.

At Re:User, we work with businesses and consumers to build a greener future through our reusable packaging system. Re:User aims to be part of the “reuse revolution” by enabling consumers and vendors to eliminate their single-use food and drink packaging waste via a simple to use reusable container system and a digital app that builds community around improving the environment. The business is still very much early stage, but I am already excited by the progress we’ve made and inspired to think about the positive difference that we could make.

What inspired you to want to take on the problem of single-use packaging?

The moment that I knew I needed to do something about single-use packaging occurred in the AlixPartners London office. A group of colleagues and I had all grabbed takeaway meals and were eating together in the office kitchen. At the end of our meal, I was in awe of the amount of waste that our small group had just created. Our quick lunch resulted in a pile of plastic containers, bags, and cutlery. In my head, I began working through each of the steps in the supply chain required for us to use this packaging and calculated the amount of waste that our office, our building, and even my home city of London was creating every day. When I thought about the astronomical impact that our takeaway packages were having on the environment, I felt the urgency of the problem and committed to finding an alternative.

andrew matthews torres del paine 2021
andrew matthews packaging facility 2021
andrew matthews cornwall 2021
Top left: Andrew visiting Torres del Paine National Park in Chile's Patagonia region while on an AlixPartners project in the region; Bottom left: Andrew on the production floor with a packaging and labeling provider; Right: Andrew on a cliff overlooking the sea on a hike in Cornwall

Do you think that recent media attention on the negative impact of single-use plastic waste is shifting the way that individuals think about sustainability in their own lives?

I think it is, and the awareness has only increased due to the pandemic. It can be easy to lose sight of your waste when you are on-the-go, living a busy city life. But when you’re living and working in your home 24/7 – the sheer amount of waste that piles up becomes a lot more noticeable. The recent media attention on this issue, especially some of the documentaries that are now readily available across the globe on streaming services, really show the human side to the waste and the destruction it’s having on the environment. The content has really helped to connect consumers to the impact of their everyday choices.

What advice do you have for others who are seeking to decrease their carbon footprint?

Do your research! There are a ton of resources online that can help you evaluate your carbon footprint and find opportunities within your day-to-day life to reduce the impact that you are having on the environment. For example, you can switch to an energy provider that provides 100% (or a majority) of its power from renewable energy, switch to zero waste cleaning products, walk/cycle more, and/or buy local. If we all commit to taking a few small actions to live a greener lifestyle and change our purchasing behaviour towards eco-friendly businesses and products, then our actions as a whole will have a huge impact and big business will continue to take notice. In more and more instances, sustainable businesses and circular economy business models not only have a positive environmental footprint, but also have better busines economics. Profit with purpose – let’s do this!