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Examples of businesses moving away from single-use

19 Apr 23

A number of businesses are already leading the way – moving from single-use items to reusable alternatives.

Ditching Disposables - Guidance Document

We have worked with Green Gain to create a guidance document that can answer some frequently asked questions and provide key insights for businesses who are hoping to start up their own reusable cup scheme.

We have also created marketing materials for any businesses who would like to promote their own Ditching Disposables scheme.

Ditching Disposables - Guidance Document

You can download the full guidance document here.

Below are just some examples of projects Zero Waste Scotland has been involved in, along with examples of other projects around the world that have demonstrated different approaches.

Ditching Disposables Stirling - Pilot Trial

In Stirling, the Ditching Disposables project piloted a return scheme for reusable cups across three different activities - the Event Scheme, the Venue Scheme and the Café scheme.

You can read about the pilot in the report, ‘Ditching Disposables Stirling – Findings from the pilot trial’.

Ditching Disposables Pilot – Portobello and Joppa

Zero Waste Scotland funded the environmental agency Changeworks to run a pilot Ditching Disposables project in the Portobello and Joppa area, just outside Edinburgh in 2021/22.  The Ditching Disposables project is supported by the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The aim of Ditching Disposables is to support hospitality businesses to shift away from single-use items, such as sauce sachets and stirrers, as well as items like cups and takeaway containers.

The timing was challenging as businesses had been dealing with the impact of Coronavirus, with some closing, new ones opening, and a number struggling with staff shortages or rising energy costs.

In total 10 businesses signed up to a charter agreeing to implement at least one intervention – with a number of them agreeing to additional measures.  The businesses varied considerably in the extent to which their customers ate in, visited to get take-away, or got take-away deliveries – and hence the interventions varied accordingly.  Interventions included: 

  • Deposit return for cups for hot drinks (and churros) 
  • Deposit return for food containers 
  • Discounts for bringing your own cups or food containers 
  • Communications campaigns to encourage customers to bring their own cups/containers (no discount offered) 
  • Swapping single-use sauce sachets for reusable sauce dispensers 
  • Putting straws behind the counter and so only providing them when asked (this was prior to the single-use plastic ban which now means that plastic straws must be kept behind the counter, but the same measure could apply now to paper straws) 
  • Putting single-use stirrers behind the counter and only providing them when asked 
  • Swapping single-use straws for reusable alternatives 
  • Trialing reusable pizza trays (it is still early days for this intervention). 

Baseline data was gathered from businesses to measure the carbon savings, and anecdotal evidence was gathered from businesses as to how they found the process, as well as from customers.  Further information is coming soon to help other businesses learn from the results and experiences of this pilot. 

Read more about how businesses can ditch their disposables and reduce their single-use waste.

Other reusable packaging schemes in Scotland  

Zero Waste Scotland has not been involved in the set-up of these schemes. The information provided below is not exhaustive and other schemes may be operating, nor is it an endorsement from Zero Waste Scotland of the companies involved. Due diligence should always be used when looking at implementing and working with other businesses.

Scottish Government: Removing Disposable Cups for Hot Drinks from Scottish Government Buildings

In June 2018 Scottish Government confirmed its commitment to reducing the use of single-use plastics in our staff restaurants and where any plastics are still used, to work towards them being recyclable. Scottish Government committed to removing all disposable cups for teas and coffees in our staff restaurants by summer 2018.

They proposed to do this by making available, and encouraging the use of, ceramic cups, and encouraging the use of reusable cups. You can find out more about their commitments to reducing single-use here.

Ecoeats (St Andrews)

Ecoeats is a takeaway food delivery provider that gives customers the option to order their takeaway in reusable containers. Customers then leave the containers outside once they’ve eaten their meal and Ecoeats pick them up again.

Schemes outside of Scotland

Naked Takeaways Mold (Wales) 

Naked Takeaways is an initiative developed by businesses in Wales to provide customers with reusable tiffin tins to take their food home. Customers have a variety of venues to choose from and are simply asked to return the washed tiffin tins when they pick up their next order.  

Reuser (London) 

Reuser provides a digitally enabled container service for cafes, restaurants, offices and events.  Items are tracked via an app and users can drop off items in return bins at partner locations and use the app to scan the QR code on the bin to record returned items.  

Bold reuse (USA) 

Restaurants pay a subscription to Bold who then source and customise containers for the food business.  The food business then charges each customer a deposit.  Customers then return containers to the Bold Reuse drop site at the restaurant.  When the customer returns the containers, they get a discount off their next order with a credit equal to the deposit they paid. Bold Reuse visit weekly to pick up the returned containers and deliver clean ones to replace them.  

ReCIRCLE (Switzerland) 

reCIRCLE provides food businesses with reusable food containers and an app that allows customers to borrow food packing for up to 7 days free of charge, so it’s deposit-free, cashless and easy to manage.