Reducing Disposables in Food Service

Disposable food containers

ReThink Disposable is a technical assistance program that helps food businesses implement best practices to reduce waste and cut costs by minimizing disposable product usage.

Whether you are a caterer, a mobile food vendor, or a restaurant, ReThink Disposable program can:

  • Make recommendations to help your business reduce waste from disposable packaging
  • Purchase some reusable products to help you implement the recommendations (Based on available funding)
  • Measure and report back to you the amount of waste you reduce and your annual cost savings
  • Recognize and promote your business within the community

The following conditions are required for participation:

  • Implement recommended changes within an agreed upon timeline
  • Provide information in a timely manner that allows ReThink Disposable to track and document the progress

ReThink Disposable is a three step process:

  1. Conduct a baseline inventory of the quantity and costs of the disposable products used by your business
  2. Implement recommended practices to reduce the use of disposable food serviceware
  3. Conduct a follow-up inventory to measure reductions and cost savings

For more information about participating in the program, click here for a flyer and sign up today!

These are some sample Best Management Practices we recommend to businesses to reduce food and beverage packaging:

  • Eliminate non-necessary disposable items or make available upon request only (i.e. straws, drink stirrers, toothpicks, etc.)
  • Make optional disposable items self-serve (drink and container lids, hot cup sleeves, napkins in a one at a time dispenser)
  • Use bulk condiments, seasonings and sweeteners – no packets
  • Use reusable dishware for on-site dining (cups, plates, bowls, portion cups, cutlery, etc.)
  • Offer and advertise reusable cup incentive
  • Offer and advertise reusable container incentive
  • Establish staff policies and training (always ask for here or to go, ask first for disposables such as bags and receipts)
  • Implement customer education and engagement
  • Eliminate excess packaging

Learn about source reduction strategies and solutions participting businesses implemented and how much annual savings and waste reductions they achieved. Watch videos and read the case studies here.

Looking for reusable food serviceware options, including pricing and vendors? Check out our Reusable Food Serviceware Guide and transition away from single-use disposable packaging today!

**Check with your local city or county solid waste, zero waste, or stormwater agency. Some local jurisdictions provide small grants and technical assistance to businesses that try to reduce waste.