It’s no secret that we have a plastic problem. It’s in the water we drink, the air we breathe, and even our own bloodstream. Plastic production is skyrocketing, half of which is used to create single-use plastic.
In the food and restaurant industry, single-use plastic is everywhere, from takeout containers to coffee stirrers and ketchup packets. This plastic foodware is used for mere minutes (and oftentimes not at all) before being tossed, where it will remain on this planet forever.
But there’s hope—most single-use plastics can be easily replaced with a healthier and cost-effective alternative: reusables.
First, let’s debunk a recent myth: Reusable foodware does NOT spread COVID-19. Plastic producers used COVID-19 to push their disposable plastics and profit off the pandemic. But it’s scientifically proven that the primary risk of catching the virus is from person-to-person contact and not via surfaces like reusable foodware.
Next, let’s dive into the top three benefits of reusables.
1. Reusables save money
First and foremost, reusables are the better option from a financial perspective. Although replacing cheap single-use plastic with reusables is an upfront cost, reusables pay for themselves in just a few months. Case studies from ReThink Disposable document that businesses can save thousands of dollars by switching to reusable foodware, even after accounting for dishwashing expenses. This California restaurant saves $5,588 per year, just by implementing reusable practices.
2. Customers prefer sustainable businesses
Reusable foodware provides a better dining experience for customers. No more soggy straws or knives that break in half under pressure. Beyond enjoying a better meal, customers actually prefer businesses with sustainable practices. Research shows that customers are even willing to pay more for restaurants that incorporate green practices.
3. Reusables protect people and the planet
Last, but certainly not least, there are clear environmental and public health reasons for shifting away from single-use plastics. Forty billion plastic utensils are thrown away each year in the United States alone, and like all foodware accessories, these items are not recyclable. That means that they will end up in a landfill, incinerator, or polluting our environment.
Reusable foodware is also safer than single-use plastic foodware, which leaches and exposes customers to toxic chemicals. Reusables lessen the burden on low-income communities and communities of color, who bear the greatest pollution burden from fossil fuel processing, plastic manufacturing, and waste incineration.
For restaurants that want more information or are ready to make the switch from single-use plastic to reusable foodware, Reusable LA offers resources in both English and Spanish, including flyers that can be printed and displayed at restaurants.
If businesses, NGOs, individuals, and policymakers all work together to reduce plastic production and consumption, we can turn the tide on plastic pollution and better the world for future generations.
About the author
Andra Janieks spearheads communications efforts for education, advocacy, and research around the plastic crisis. She is Marketing Manager at 5 Gyres, a nonprofit working toward a world free of plastic pollution, and she also serves as Communications Co-Chair for Reusable LA, an award-winning coalition championing a culture of reuse in Los Angeles.
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