On their road to wannabe green restaurants, food service businesses face many challenges. One huge chapter is takeaways and disposables, which, unfortunately, often still go together. In this blog post, we will address the impact of single-use stuff in the sector and the environment. Also, we will show different strategies restaurants and organizations are putting in place to reduce the volume of waste created and engage customers in the process.
Step Two: Reduce Single-Use Stuff
According to the US EPA, single-use cups, plates, containers, and packaging make 28% of the municipal solid waste. A figure that increased overwhelmingly during the Covid-19 pandemic, when takeout orders rose 237 percent.
A recent study found that Foodservice single-use disposables create about 4.9 million tons of waste annually. Even though they are used for less than an hour, it takes months and even hundreds of years until they break down into microplastics or decompose - if air and moisture conditions enable so!
Another downside of disposables is their cost. The US Foodservice spends 1 billion dollars annually to manage its disposable items, for which it pays 561 billion (2016 data) per year.
What disposable items make the top five of the sector?
- Cold cups
- Carrier bags
- Other containers
The truth is that these top five items could perfectly be replaced by reusable alternatives.
Takeaways Can Become More Sustainable (and Safe)
Undoubtedly, ordering digitally has been very convenient during the Covid breakout and still is a lifeline for many Americans. But as digital orders have increased sky-rocket during the pandemic, so has the number of disposables -allegedly, for the sake of “health and safety”- and the amount of garbage seen everywhere.
As Foodprint organization reports, consumer petitions popped up online in the last two years, urging companies to bring back reusables during the pandemic. Moreover, in July 2020, an open letter from scientists and public health experts underlined the safety of reusables if basic hygiene is employed. Also, they stated that “single-use plastic is not inherently safer than reusables, and causes additional public health concerns once it is discarded.”
How are food service actors swapping back to reusables?
Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
And takeaways are no exception to this rule!
Human creativity and joint efforts can generate amazing initiatives to bounce back to reusables. Here are some examples of how restaurants and cafés are networking and engaging customers to go zero-waste.
Partnerships to Offer Reusable Containers
Companies like Dispatch Goods are partnering with restaurants, caterers, and meal delivery services in the Bay Area so that they can offer reusable containers/packaging to deliver their food.
Customers can later schedule a home collection, find a return bin to hand in reusables, or simply scan the QR code on the containers to schedule at-home collection. On collection day, they simply leave their bag filled with rinsed containers out for collection, either in a lobby or out front of their home. Simple as that!
Dispatch Goods' partner network of restaurants, caterers, and more is helping to build a circular economy
Many foodservice businesses are bringing back reusables to the scene by focusing on customer engagement, either offering buyable reusables at the store or using incentives.
Offering Customers to Buy Reusables
Just Salad, a pioneer company in labeling foods’ carbon footprint, offers a $1 Reusable Bowl as part of their efforts to reduce their impact on the environment. Lately, the company has introduced BringBack Bowl, a new program that allows you to pick up your order in a green returnable bowl.
Other green restaurants ask customers to pay a return deposit for reusables: Ancolie, an innovative and zero-waste coffee shop in West Village, Manhattan, used to serve all its meals in reusable glass jars that could be returned for a $2 deposit.
Using Incentives and Supporting a Good Cause
The Canadian BYO app (Bring Your Own) encourages people to bring their own cup or jar and scan the provided QR. For every five drinks/food served in customers’ reusables, the start-up plants a tree, collaborating with the Eden Reforestation Project. This app not only will help reduce waste, but also promote carbon sequestration. We hope these apps become the norm in the coming years!
In the last few years, many countries of the world have started offering discounts to customers who bring their own reusables. One of the most fantastic initiatives was born in Australia in 2013. Responsible Runners, a group of volunteers who gathered to collect litter on Australian beaches, thought it would be a great idea to offer people a discount if they used their own cup every time they bought a coffee. Later they decided to place on a map all the cafés joining the initiative, and Responsible Cafes was born. This network has grown to 5,000 members! The organization has a lovely section with resources to help cafes communicate their zero.-waste mission.
Starbucks has made an attempt to grow this wave by offering increased discounts for customers who bring in their own cups for a limited time or by donating $1 to Ocean Conservancy for each drink served in reusables. I've been wondering...Why not implement it for unlimited time?
Green restaurants that have committed to sustainability
One way of picking sustainable restaurants is looking for those that are Certified USDA Organic, Certified Green Restaurants, or participate in Zero FoodPrint or RethinkDisposable programs. if you are a customer, you will make sure your choice is sourcing sustainable food, minimizing food packaging and food waste, among other green practices.
If you run a food service business and have more tips on how to revolutionize takeaways to go zero-waste, share your ideas with us! And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your friends and colleagues.
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