Vancouver Focuses on Reuse by Starting a Bring-Your-Own Container Pilot Project

Connector Summer 2018

The City of Vancouver is preparing to launch a bring-your-own-container pilot project to help curb a major source of garbage: single-use disposable take-out containers.

Disposable cups and take-out containers make up roughly half the garbage that’s tossed in Vancouver’s public waste bins, said Monica Kosmak, a senior project manager of zero-waste projects with the City of Vancouver.

It’s a “significant problem” that costs tax payers about $2.5 million a year to clean up, she said. That’s alongside the pressure all that garbage puts on local landfills and the resources and pollution associated with manufacturing single-use containers.

The pilot project, which is being developed in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health, is part of the city’s effort to become a zero-waste community by 2040. It is expected to launch by the end of summer or early fall.

The project will allow customers to use their own reusable containers for take-out food at a select number of restaurants participating in the pilot. A spokesperson for Vancouver Coastal Health said that, at this point, businesses are typically not allowed to fill their customers’ reusable take-out containers.

The concern, from Vancouver Coastal Health’s perspective, is that a customer’s container could be contaminated if it has been improperly cleaned or stored and could lead to cross-contamination when it comes into contact with service utensils or equipment.

Reusable cups, in contrast, typically wouldn’t come into contact with any utensils or equipment used to serve other customers, said Tiffany Akins, the health authority’s spokesperson, in a statement.

“Gastrointestinal illness, salmonella, norovirus, hepatitis A are some of the food-borne illnesses that can spread and make people sick,” Akins said.

To minimize these risks, Vancouver Coast Health environmental health officers will work with restaurant staff so they can learn how to assess the safety of a customer’s container as part of the pilot.

While Kosmak said recycling is definitely part of the solution, she said “we know that we can’t just recycle our way to zero waste.”

“Although it conserves resources from going to the landfill or incinerator, there still are resources consumed that are used to manufacture these take-out containers,” she said.

This is not the first initiative of its kind in Vancouver. Between 2012 and 2015, local chef Hunter Moyes ran the Tiffin Project, where participating restaurants offered takeout to regular customers in reusable tiffin containers.

Moyes said the project ended in 2015 after Vancouver Coastal Health raised concerns about whether it fit within existing regulations.

While Moyes said the new pilot is repeating a lot of work his project already did, he said it’s better late than never.

Source: The Star Vancouver