Brownstein: Thinking Outside the Box with Reusable Takeout Containers

“We are looking to save restaurants and the city money on waste management costs, as well as helping the environment.”

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If not much more, the pandemic has provided an unprecedented rebound in takeout from restaurants. While this allowed restaurateurs the opportunity to avoid closing the store, perhaps permanently, during the closure, there have also been some unfortunate consequences: among them, more tons of single-use takeout containers littering. in landfills and bodies of water all over the planet.

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This ever-expanding ecological crisis caught the attention of 33-year-old Montrealer Mishel Wong. She just launched an app-based reusable takeout packaging service in town, the “Bo option.” In collaboration with 16 restaurants in the Plateau / Mile End districts, customers now have the option of choosing reusable packaging in the form of what she calls “Bo containers” when ordering takeout.

And it costs clients nothing if they stick with the plan, plus it will at least give them a little more awareness. It is the restaurateurs who pay Bo for the reusable packaging and, in the short term, they too will win.

If customers opt for Bo, they simply have to create an account at participating restaurants, which will provide them with an application code. They are then asked to rinse the containers and drop them off in various Bo delivery containers at retail outlets and restaurants in the area within 14 days. (If not returned before the mandatory loan period, customers will be charged the retail price of the containers.)

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Bo’s team will sanitize the returned containers at their industrial washing facility, before shipping them back to the restaurants that purchased them.

It seems like a no-brainer.

For Scientists: Bo containers are made of polypropylene plastic, which is BPA free and FDA approved. They can be reused up to 1,000 times, after which the Bo containers will be recycled as building brick material with a New Brunswick construction company. Containers can withstand freezers and microwave ovens and can be cleaned in commercial dishwashers.

Among the remnants that have been registered for service are Ye Olde Orchard Pub and Grill (Prince Arthur St. location), Montreal Paella, Nakamichi, Liv Salades, Maynard, Otto Bistro, Sumi Dojo, Momo Sushi, and Phoenix. Wong now reports that more than 60 restaurants in the city have signed prior agreements to participate in the Bo plan, and he is making plans for island-wide expansion shortly.

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“To be completely honest, I had always seen myself more as an entrepreneur, a salesperson, than an environmentalist, and the initial idea around this was to help our employer, a restaurant supplier, who was going through difficult times with the pandemic, ”says Wong.

“Frankly, I had been quite ignorant of what was happening to the environment before, particularly with single-use plastics. But when I learned that less than nine percent of plastic food packaging was recycled, I saw a possible solution and an opportunity. Studies have shown that it takes less than 50 uses of our containers to begin reducing negative impact on the environment. “

Under the
Under the “Bo option” devised by Mishel Wong, customers rinse reusable containers and deposit them in designated containers. They are then disinfected and returned to participating restaurants. So far, there are 16 in the Plateau / Mile End districts. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

Bo is a service-based business and makes money selling restaurants with a base inventory level of boxes that adhere to the Bo code. Bo also recharges restaurants for the cleaning operation, after returning the containers.

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“Even as such, the rates that restaurants pay are much more competitive than what they would pay for disposable plastic boxes, which are in the 30-cent to $ 1-a-piece range, while ours are in the 24-cent range. pennies, “he says. . “After three to six months, depending on the volume, restaurateurs can recoup their costs, just as they do with dishes and utensils.”

As such, the sole responsibility of the customers is to return the containers.

“Apart from many other reasons, we wanted the service to be free for customers because we wanted to remove the barrier for those who have enough financial problems,” says Wong.

“Try to visualize this: When ordering takeout for a family, you could end up with 10 containers. And if they told you that you have to pay a deposit of $ 5 to $ 7 per box, you would look at me like I was crazy, in terms of paying both on consignment and for food. Our app allows customers to use the containers without paying for them, as long as they return them, like a library book, within 14 days. “

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Understandably, Wong feels that his system is a win-win situation.

“We are looking to save restaurants and the city money on waste management costs, as well as helping the environment.”

However, he cautions that even if the Bo option is applied, it will not be 100% reusable in restaurants until full conversion of all takeout materials can be achieved.

“Until that change happens, we are looking for a better balance between disposables and reusable. But when the day comes when a restaurant announces that it only offers reusable, it will be the biggest win of all.

“The ultimate goal is to create something that is durable and not just fashionable, both from an environmental and commercial point of view.”

For information, go to app.bopaq.com

[email protected]

twitter.com/billbrownstein

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Reference-montrealgazette.com

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