We’ve previously talked about the waste that takeout generates and some of the potential solutions. Since the pandemic started, a lack of indoor dining has made takeout the only restaurant option in many places, and as a result, both the problems — and the solutions — have multiplied. 

At least five new startups across Canada are hoping to eliminate waste by allowing you to order your meal in reusable, returnable containers. A Friendlier Company (in Guelph, Ont.), Suppli (Toronto), Ekko (Waterloo, Ont.) and Reusables.com (Vancouver) are already serving restaurants and customers, while Re-Vita (Edmonton) is getting ready to launch.

Why now? The pandemic might not be an obvious time to launch new services for the struggling restaurant industry. But many people have started ordering more takeout and feel guilty about the waste, said Anastasia Kiku, co-founder of Reusables (whose wares are shown in the photo above). “We just wanted to solve this problem,” she said. 

Also, in October, the federal government announced it would ban “hard-to-recycle” single-use plastic food takeout containers, such as black plastic and polystyrene. Kiku and the others say reusables are the best solution.

Jacquie Hutchings, co-founder and chief operating officer of A Friendlier Company, said the pandemic has also forced people to get used to change. “Now is the time to implement a new system,” she said. “Just offer it as an option and see what happens.”

What kind of container: In most cases, the food comes in stainless steel containers. Crystal Kruis, who co-founded Ekko with her daughter Chloe, said metal is more durable and is what customers said they wanted.

The exception is A Friendlier Company, which uses polypropylene plastic containers. The company says the containers are light, stackable and their low cost reduces fees (it’s the only service that’s free for customers).

How it works: Suppli, Reusables.com and A Friendlier Company give customers the option to order through popular food delivery apps, although Suppli and Reusables.com require you to sign up through their app or website first, and you need leave a note about the use of reusable containers in the delivery instructions.

Suppli and Ekko have per-order fees ranging from 50 cents to $2, while Reusables.com charges a $5 monthly fee. A Friendlier Company doesn’t charge customers for the service, although diners do have to pay a refundable deposit of 50 cents to $1 per container.

Restaurants pay the companies a fee that includes the container rental, cleaning and restocking. Generally, the fee is designed to be comparable to what the restaurants are already paying for disposable containers.

The companies track their containers using QR codes or electronic ID tags to make sure they’re returned to a participating restaurant or drop-off point within one to two weeks. Otherwise, customers get charged.

How it’s going: So far, each company has between four and 30 participating restaurants.

Crystalle Kruis at Ekko said in the first two days after her company launched in April, the company replaced 231 takeout containers with reusables — roughly enough to stack up to the height of a four-storey building. 

She said some customers told her they had been avoiding takeout because of the waste. Having a reusable option allowed them to resume supporting local restaurants.

Hutchings at A Friendlier Company, which launched in October, said some participating restaurants have switched completely to reusables and stopped offering customers disposable options at all.

Read the full and original story at cbc.ca