Shifting from single-use to reusable foodware options is not only good for the environment, but it benefits businesses and communities with lower costs and better experiences for customers. Local businesses, community groups, event organizers and institutions across Toronto are already making the shift and seeing the benefits of reuse.
Withrow Park Farmers Market is a weekly outdoor market in Riverdale that includes fresh farm produce and prepared food. In an effort to reduce waste, market organizers started a pilot to offer reusable cups and dishes for visitors to use in the park, and it was a hit with customers and vendors. They estimate this prevented more than 10,000 single-use cups, dishes and cutlery used at the market each year. Withrow Park Farmers Market now also offers reusable take-out containers for customers to bring food home, providing another no-waste option to enjoy local, sustainable food.
Chantal, Market Manager: "We've seen the benefits of reusables for our market - I’m dreaming of a day when every market, every outdoor event and festival has reusable dishes too.”
Humber College has been reducing single-use foodware waste on campus as part of their larger push to sustainability. Starting in the fall of 2022, they expanded their reusable take-out container program at two campuses. Students and staff can get their food in reusable O2GO take-out containers at North Campus, or reusable Friendlier containers at the Lakeshore Campus. Users pay a fee or deposit to join the program and can get a refund when the containers are returned for reuse. In the first year of the program, students, staff and faculty that joined the program avoided 100,000 disposable containers.
Derek opened Hamers Coffee in 2019 and has been looking to provide waste-free options for serving coffee. "My customers are definitely waste aware, so I wanted to reduce single-use cups." This year, they heard about a reusable cup and container program operated by Muuse and joined right away. Customers can borrow and return cups at a number of locations, like a library. "Since we started 5 months ago we've prevented over 1000 single-use cups from going to landfill, and have had a cup cost savings of over $250!"
The Toronto Garlic Festival turned their annual foodie celebration into a zero waste reuse success story. Like many events and festivals, past events generated a lot of waste from single-use food trays, cups and utensils. In 2022, the organizers wanted to find a more sustainable approach and committed to zero waste for the annual event.
The organizers secured a local reusable foodware service to provide plates, dishes, cups and utensils that could be used for all food and drink vendors at the festivals. Dream Zero staff provided the dishes, set up drop off points and used on-site dishwashing facilities. In the end, the one day event avoided more than 4.445 single use items!
Many local film and TV studios are making an effort to be more sustainable. Catering for talent and crew in a production can be costly and wasteful - with standard catering served in disposable containers. Now a new service from two startups is offering an alternative to reduce food waste and avoid disposables. Production crew and staff order only the food they want using the hungerhub catering app, and Suppli provides stainless steel insulated containers to participating restaurants. Suppli collects containers from the studio, cleans and returns them to be reused by the restaurants.
In a 4 month pilot in summer 2022, a TV production avoided 2,756 disposable containers when 25% of their crew’s meals were delivered in reusables. They estimate this service saved more than $20,300 compared to a typical catering contract. "It's painful to look at the waste created by 100+ people eating takeout lunch every day! We couldn't be happier to partner with Suppli & hungerhub to enhance our existing lunch program and reduce our contribution to landfills." - Production Coordinator, Colleen