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Victoria restaurants hope to reduce takeout garbage with reusable food containers

Group of restaurants selling plastic takeout boxes that can be washed, returned, reused
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Maryanne Carmack holds food in a reusable takeout container at Roast in the Victoria Public Market at The Hudson. Roast is part of a local collective promoting the use of reusuable containers. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

A group of Greater Victoria restaurants has banded together to launch a reusable-container program with the aim of reducing single-use takeout items going to the landfill.

The Victoria-based Bread and Butter Collective’s Eco ­Reusable Container program, which starts Saturday, comes as the ­popularity of takeout food has soared during the pandemic.

Through the initiative, customers will be able to buy the container their food is served in for $8, clean it after use, and bring it to another participating business when they next order takeout food. The business will take the container and serve the food in another, sterilized ­container.

The container has a QR code on it linking it to the collective’s website listing participants, which include 2% Jazz Coffee, Big Wheel Burger, Bodega, Caffe Fantastico, Camosun ­College’s culinary arts program at its Interurban campus, FOO, Habit Coffee, La Pasta La Pizza, ­Pizzeria Prima Strada, Poco, Roast, Sherwood, Taco Stand, Tapa Bar, The Drake and ­Zambri’s.

Maryanne Carmack, ­president of the collective, which formed during the pandemic to help local businesses support each other and share ideas, said Thursday that members have been working on the program for about a year. She anticipates more businesses coming on board.

Similar programs operate in both Canada and the U.S., she said.

Carmack said an estimated 75,000 single-use takeout materials are tossed out daily in the capital region.

“Every time an eco-container is used and reused, a ­disposable item is saved from being ­created,” said Carmack, who expects the public to embrace the initiative, comparing it to the quick adoption of reusable shopping bags.

“It is great to see the change that has happened over the years when you go to the grocery store. You see everybody with their reusable bags now,” she said. “I think something like this container program will really take off.”

The collective is selling only one standard-sized container for now, but Carmack anticipates offering other sizes as the program becomes established. The container is nine by six by three inches, or 22.8 by 15 by 7.6 centimetres.

They can be washed in a ­commercial dishwasher up to 1,000 times, she said, and when they are not longer usable, they can be recycled.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps offered her support in a statement, saying: “Innovative ideas like this supported by our local businesses are what’s going to get us to our goal of a zero waste, circular economy.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com