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California city launches program to ease restaurants' switch to reusable containers

Operations in Mountain View can qualify for up to $300 in reusables and free technical advice on which ones to try in place of disposables.
Mountain View wants to wean restaurants off packages like these./Photo: Shutterstock

Restaurants in the small city of Mountain View, Calif., are being eased into the adoption of reusable food containers through a collaboration between the municipality and a local group aiming to reduce the industry’s reliance on disposables.

The city announced Tuesday that ReThink Disposable has agreed to provide technical advice and up to $300 worth of reusable food packaging to participating restaurants. The items provided will be determined by the group’s analysis of the businesses’ current use of disposables.

The items could include cups, bowls, plates and trays.

The assistant and free permanent ware is being offered on a first come, first serve basis until ReThink’s assistance pool is depleted. The size of that pool was not revealed.

Mountain View is a 12-square-mile city of about 84,000 residents in the heart of Silicon Valley. It has set a goal of reducing the amount of its solid waste that flows into landfills by 90% by 2030. 

Its effort to promote a switch to reusable food containers is consistent with ReThink’s mission of reducing Bay Area business’ output of solid waste. The group says it’s currently working with 251 businesses, which have reduced their waste collectively by more than 131 tons annually.

ReThink research shows that businesses switching from disposables to reusables save between $3,000 and $21,000 a year even if their labor and water costs rise.

The Mountain View program is one of a slew of local, state and private-sector initiatives aimed at reducing the amounts of plastics and other packaging materials that end up in the waste stream or as litter. Those efforts range from a collaboration of major restaurant chains on finding viable alternatives to disposable coffee cups, to shifting the cost of cleaning up litter from taxpayers to businesses that benefit from the packaging that ends up as roadside and shoreline trash.

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