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The Benefits of Ditching Disposables

The Benefits of Ditching Disposables for Reusables

Envision living in a world without single-use plastics.

When you eat at a fast food establishment, your burger and fries are served on ceramic plates, with soda in reusable to-go cups. The concept of throwing away plastic utensils and dishes is replaced with a system of dropping off reusable containers and cups at a receptacle where they are picked up, washed, and returned to the kitchen.

This may seem like idealistic thinking, but many restaurants are already implementing practices through companies like Topanga to ditch disposables in favor of circular operations that bring many sustainable benefits for businesses, consumers, and the planet.

Helping the Environment

Eight of the top 10 most commonly found plastic pollution items in beach cleanups come from food and beverage packaging.

Some food establishments have transitioned to “green” single-use alternatives, such as compostable packaging. However, every time we throw away a single-use item, we also dispose of the natural resources used to make that product. Single-use service ware leaves their highest greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and water impacts during resource extraction and manufacturing, such as plastics from fossil fuels, paper from trees, biomaterials from crops, and aluminum from mining.

On the other hand, several Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies found that reusable service ware, such as glass, ceramic, and stainless steel, leave a significantly smaller carbon footprint than single-use plastics or their alternatives. Even with rewashing, reusables require less water and emit fewer GHGs than disposables.

By implementing reusables into the food industry, we also protect our oceans from plastic pollution. Eight of the top 10 most commonly found plastic pollution items in beach cleanups come from food and beverage packaging. Whenever you choose a reusable product, that’s at least one less piece of plastic affecting our planet.

Saving Businesses & Cities Money

Small businesses that switched from disposables to reusables saved between $3,000 and $22,000 per year.

Concerns of added dishwashing and labor costs don’t add up in reality. Most food service operators don’t consider the costs of disposing single-use service ware, managing single-use packaging, and continuously purchasing disposables versus the one-time purchase of reusable service ware. Many restaurants already serve meals on some reusable service ware that are cleaned in commercial or three-sink dishwashers. These businesses can fully transition to reusables without increasing labor or dishwashing capacity. Most fast food restaurants have no commercial dishwasher and use fully disposable packaging, but a retrofit or external dishwashing service can solve the problem without losing money or customer loyalty.

Businesses who switch no longer pay for waste disposal, while local governments and taxpayers save money with less waste to manage. Reusable service ware prevents litter from accumulating on the streets. Cleaning litter costs more than $11.5 billion each year in the U.S., and roughly 20 billion pieces of litter are disposable food service ware. When local governments implement bans and fees for single-use plastic, consumers will be motivated to choose reusables and therefore reduce the presence of litter.

Creating new opportunities within a reuse service economy

Almost one trillion disposable food service products are used annually in the United States. Unfortunately, throwaway culture comes with costs to the environment, businesses, and taxpayers. These costs represent lost opportunities to create entirely new consumer systems without so much waste. However, a new reusable food service economy is growing for entrepreneurs and investors nationwide. When we reuse, we create new businesses and jobs through the cleaning and redistribution of reusable service ware. These community-based jobs cannot be outsourced, keeping money within the local economy.

When we reuse, we create new businesses and jobs through the cleaning and redistribution of reusable service ware

We’ve seen emerging reusable cup systems at arenas and stadiums that will map out the strengths and areas for improvement for these structures. Lending libraries and deposit systems allow customers to enjoy their meals at no extra cost. Restaurants can replace existing inventory management with disposables through dishwashing and logistics services.

Time To Act

The benefits of reusable serviceware are clear; they eliminate waste before it begins. It has the power to save the planet while maintaining an enjoyable dining experience. Companies like Topanga aim to accelerate consumer-driven change away from throwaway culture, but with new government policies, well-funded solutions, and business support, we send the message that our planet is not disposable.

Contact us today if you’d like to ditch disposables for good and implement a reusable system in your cafe or restaurant..

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