By Bonita Davis, SE Resident and Master Recycler
Food on the go has become more popular than ever and a necessity for Portland restaurants doing their best to weather the pandemic.
For those who enjoy waste-free dining using durables, it can be disappointing to be left with a pile of non-recyclable paper and plastic at the end of a meal. It is use once and throw away by design for billions of plates, cups and cutlery per year, in the US alone.
Cost associated with one time use supplies include depletion of natural resources, energy, additional manufacturing, the price of transportation and disposal, plus litter and pollution. What about reducing that impact by trading out disposables with durable alternatives?
Turning to solutions, locally-owned GO Box has created a circular system offering a zero waste service that eliminates single-use trash. They provide reusable packaging for takeout to vendors (restaurants, cafes, food carts, markets) and their customers.
A subscription service, GO Box customers select the level that works for them and then use the GO Box app to choose from partnering eateries.
Ordered food will be placed into a durable container with a secure lid that is portable and great as a food bowl. It is easy to find convenient drop off sites for the empties. Vendors are kept stocked with a clean sanitized supply of containers.
The impact of GO Box is impressive: 202,678 and counting, single-use containers have not been used. That’s over 16 tons of containers and cups not going to landfill! More information on how it all works and more on the positive impact of reuse at goboxpdx.com.
A new venture, Loop, rolled out a system just over a year ago to get popular name brand products to consumers without any packaging to throw away or recycle.
Started by the team at New Jersey-based TerraCycle (terracycle.com), known by many for their mail-in box programs for hard to recycle materials, the focus of Loop shifts to reuse.
Traditional product packaging has been replaced with durable, reusable containers redesigned by product companies. Made from stainless steel, glass and durable plastic, they fit into a reusable zippered tote. Coolers are included as needed. Shoppers complete an online order and once filled, the packed tote is shipped via UPS.
Each container and the tote carry a deposit, refunded when the empties and tote are returned to the company. In short, you end up with just the consumable product with no package to discard or recycle.
Online reviews indicate that service is prompt, customer service is very good and the products are excellent, but noted drawbacks are premium pricing and the large tote is bulky to store.
Tote delivery is available coast to coast although currently, in-store returnable containers are only available in select east coast locations. Learn more at loopstore.com.
Press releases have announced Burger King’s plans to test market reusable packaging options in a partnership with TerraCycle. Customers will be able to opt for reusable food, beverage and coffee containers that require a small deposit, refunded upon return.
Like durables at other restaurants, packaging will be cleaned and sanitized before reuse. Portland has been named one of the three US cities to pilot the packaging later this year. Learn more at bit.ly/BKreusable.
Reuse, however it is imagined, is an important action to reduce waste and may be more important than recycling. Whether we dine out or order takeout, we can practice reuse when we shop and prepare our food at home.
Simple things we can do to reduce waste: shop the bulk aisles, reuse our own clean containers, use durables at home rather than disposables and switch to cloth napkins and dishtowels.
Small actions can lead to impressive results. Watch not only the garbage rollcart volume go down, but the recycling rollcart volume as well.