Have you ever had the satisfaction of ordering a delicious takeout meal ruined by the big pile of plastic containers left over once you’ve unpacked all the food?
That may be a problem of the past in the Seymour area of North Vancouver, as a pair of earth-friendly enterprises have teamed up to support a network of restaurants where you can order your takeout meal in reusable containers and then bring them back to be used again.
The technology behind the program comes from reusables.com, while North Shore-based non-profit Ocean Ambassadors Canada has come on board to help local restaurants and consumers to get with the program. The idea of getting a whole community to stop using disposable plastic containers for their takeout food and start using reusable dishes has been a goal for a long time, said Ocean Ambassadors Canada co-founder Alison Wood.
“We know that we need to move away from single-use items,” she said. “I think now we're at a moment where the technology is finally here to be able to support this kind of initiative so that it is easy for the customer and easy for the business owners.”
The program will officially launch Oct. 18, with at least 17 local businesses in the Parkgate, Dollarton and Deep Cove neighbourhoods ready to go. So how does it work?
Reusables.com, which is already up and running in other markets, supplies restaurants and food businesses with stainless steel reusable containers that customers can select as a sustainable alternative to single-use packaging. Businesses pay a usage fee for each container, while customers download the app and pay a $5 monthly fee to participate.
The containers are delivered to participating businesses and used for takeout and delivery orders. They are then returned, sanitized, and reused. Customers can return their clean containers within 14 days to any participating location. The app also enables users to track the volume of waste they’ve helped divert from landfills.
“It's kind of like a library system,” said Reusables.com co-founder Jason Hawkins, who is also a North Vancouver resident. “We're just looking at the puzzle pieces and trying to rearrange what's already there in a way that allows us to design out waste from the equation.”
Hawkins is hoping the idea catches on and more restaurants start serving their takeout food in containers that will end up back on their shelves, not in the landfill.
"What I see in the next five years is sustainability becoming and continuing to be top-of-mind,” said Hawkins. “We'd like to scale our business around the world. We think this is a global problem and we believe that it's up to private businesses to come up with the solutions that will be in place in a timely manner so people can adopt them faster."
The Seymour initiative is unique because it is the first time a whole network of businesses in one community has joined the program together. Aside from a few stragglers, most of the restaurants east of the Seymour River have signed on, ranging from big chains like A&W and JJ Bean down to local favourites like Honey Doughnuts & Goodies, InGrain Pastificio, Bluhouse Market & Café, Cafe Orso, and the Raven Pub.
The Seymour area was a natural fit for the program, given that businesses there have already embraced environmentally friendly initiatives, said Wood. In 2018, Deep Cove became an early adopter in the movement against plastic straws, as all of the businesses there banded together to ban their use.
“We think that it's really the ideal community to start this with, because we believe the community is really environmentally minded,” said Wood. “We've had a lot of excitement from the community already.”
A launch party featuring guest speakers and food and drink from participating vendors is planned for Oct. 16, 5-7:30 p.m. in Deep Cove, on Gallant Avenue in front of Honey Doughnuts.
“We think it’s going to be really user-friendly and convenient for the locals, and we hope that that’s going to make it really successful,” said Wood, adding she believes the time is right for initiatives like this to take off on a mass scale. “We've been waiting for the moment, and we think that it's now.”
For more information about the program, to sign up, or for free tickets to the launch party, visit the Ocean Ambassadors Canada website.
- with files from Thor Diakow, Vancouver Is Awesome