Reusable takeout containers coming to Texas restaurants?

Alternatives to disposable, plastic doggie bags are available

Staff | TPIN
Examples of reusable metal straws, wood forks and plastic forks and spoons
Caroline Gamble

Communications Intern

Living in a world dominated by plastic is daunting; plastic forks infiltrate our beaches and harm our wildlife; public garbage cans are consistently overflowing; Texas landfills are reaching capacity.

Inarguably, plastic is convenient to use; it is disposable and durable. Thus, many restaurants capitalize on plastic foodware, filling the restaurant industry with plastic as far as the eye can see (Whataburger’s styrofoam cups have even become part of their identity). Plastic is simply unavoidable in the United States, but there are solutions. Various organizations are working to implement reusable foodware systems to stop our dependence on plastic. 

At a workshop organized by Perpetual and Turtle Island Restoration Network in Galveston this spring, attendees were able to explore different reusable foodware designs and voice their feedback. 96% of attendees said they were likely or very likely to use reusable foodware systems if they became available in Galveston. These results are promising; attendees of these workshops have incentives to reduce their waste in their respective industries. The next step is providing infrastructure to satisfy this demand. 

The proposed reusable foodware system is an intricate process that will involve numerous entities within cities. Essentially, an inventory of reusable foodware — cups, plates, utensils, etc — will be provided to a city, and businesses will serve food and drinks with said foodware. Consumers will use the foodware, and then return it to either the business or a collection site — these collection sites will be dispersed around town. A third party will collect and wash all of the foodware to be used again. The cleaned foodware will be returned to the businesses for continued use. The cycle continues, reducing the need for single-use foodware. 

Cities throughout the United States are working to implement these programs to reduce their landfill waste. Perpetual itself has partnered with Savannah, Georgia, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Hilo, Hawai’i County. Some cities, such as Berkeley, California, established city ordinances for restaurants to make the switch to reusable foodware before a certain year. The demand for reusable foodware is prompting more companies to enter the market and provide the expertise and infrastructure to actualize these systems; some of these companies include DeliverZero, PR3, and Dispatch Goods. However, it will take time for these systems to fully develop as considerable infrastructure — wash facilities, drop-off bins, and transportation systems — take time and money to establish. These considerable efforts and costs are not in vain, however; reusable foodware systems can reduce 80% of climate emissions compared to single-use systems. 

Boulder, Colorado has proven successful in implementing their reuse program with Repeater — now called DeliverZero. The city itself used grant funding to assist Repeater in creating the needed infrastructure to start the reusable foodware system. In their first year of operation, 16 restaurants enrolled in the program. 

Implementing reusable foodware systems will help eliminate waste, reduce carbon emissions, and save marine life from litter in their ecosystems. 


Caroline Gamble

Communications Intern

Luke Metzger

Executive Director, Environment Texas

As the executive director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation, renewable energy and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughters are working to visit every state park in Texas.

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