We need our city to shift from single-use and disposables and towards reuse. This is an important step in the fight against climate change and reducing the amount of plastic that gets into our environment. These are five key programs and policies that will help us get there.

1. Accessories on Request

What this means: Restaurants ask customers instead of automatically giving out dining accessories such as utensils, napkins, condiments, etc.

The first step is to avoid unnecessary single-use items in the first place.

Right now, many restaurants just automatically hand out utensils - plastic forks, or wooden chopsticks, condiments and napkins - whether you want them or not.

A very simple solution is for a restaurant to only give these out on request, or ask if you want them. This can immediately reduce waste and save businesses money.

Also known as ‘Ask-First’ or ‘Skip-the-Stuff’, a growing number of cities and states have passed a law that requires every restaurant, ordering app and even events to do this.This list includes:: LA, Chicago, San Francisco, New Jersey,Vancouver, Edmonton, and Banff

2. Reusables for dine-in

What this means: Serve food and drink with reusable foodware for on-site dining

While many restaurants still use real dishes, too many restaurants, especially fast food establishments, automatically use disposable cups and dishes even when you’re not going anywhere. 

When this policy came mandatory big companies like Mcdonalds and Starbucks adpated to comply.

Some cities, and even some countries, have recently passed laws to require that restaurants, cafeterias and even big events provide reusables if it’s not take-out.This list includes: France, Netherlands, Banff, and the province of Alberta

3. Bring-your-own

What this means: Promote and have a clear process to accept customer cups, containers, bags

Many small and big businesses allow people to bring their own cups, containers, and shopping bags: some even offer a discount to reward you for doing so. However, this is still just a small percentage of take-out, and most businesses don’t promote it or let their customers know they can do this. 

A few Canadian cities and other countries are already passing by-laws that would require restaurants and cafes to develop a clear process and policy to accept customer cups and containers. 

These cities are providing guidance on how to do it within the local health guidelines and are providing free signs and posters to help explain it. This list includes:Banff, Edmonton (for cups), and Germany

4. Reusable returnable foodware for take-out

What this means: Another way to avoid disposables and single use is to reusable returnable foodware for take out 

There are a few services in Toronto already doing this! Customers borrow the container and return it when they’re done, like a library. 

Some take a refundable deposit, others have an app and you only pay if you don’t return it.  

There are already a few places around the world where restaurants over a certain size are required to offer a reusable take-out option. This list includes: Germany (Jan 2023), and Netherlands (July)

A&W and Tim Horton’s have reusable cup pilot projects on the go in Vancouver as well.

These companies provide rentals for events and restaurants around Toronto right now:

  • Suppli
  • Muuse
  • Friendlier
  • Inwit

5. Reusables at events 

What this means: Require reusable cups and dishes at event venues and festivals

Toronto hosts a huge number of major events each year; in public, at stadiums, at arenas, and concert halls. Sports and event venues are an ideal place to shift to reuse: they’re a closed environment with limited vendors, and all the food and drink are consumed on-site, especially alcoholic drinks which cannot leave the venue. 

A number of events around the world have already chosen to shift to reusables themselves.soccer clubs in the UK, major festivals in Belgium, and concerts in Australia and the US are already running events with reusable cups and dishes. 

Governments are encouraging this practice and taking the step to require reusables for events. This list includes: Banff, Netherlands, Berkeley, California, and the Reuse Seattle project in partnership with major stadiums.