Blog Post

As restaurants and eateries have pivoted to offer more to-go meal options during the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of single-use packaging has increased. Businesses seeking to save money and reduce waste can reap numerous benefits while demonstrating a commitment to sustainability by reviewing and adopting different practices for to-go items. RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts (RecyclingWorks) now offers a resource, Reducing Waste From Restaurant Takeout and Delivery Meals, that highlights some of the key strategies to implement a waste reduction program.

Offering a reusable container program is one innovative approach to reduce waste. To start, a business selects a reusable container that customers can choose to purchase. When ordering food, the customer receives their meal in a sanitized container from the restaurant, which is later returned for the restaurant to sanitize in-house and recirculate for use. ReThink Disposable has estimated that this strategy can save a business $3,000-$7,000 each year. To learn more about how one business has implemented a similar program, visit our blog spotlight about Grainmaker.

Additional strategies to reduce waste from take-out orders include:

  • Ask if customers require single-use items, such as utensils, napkins straws, or bags with their order.
  • Avoid individually wrapping items when possible.
  • Choose recyclable items, such as aluminum foil and trays or clear plastic tubs with lids
  • Minimize use of items that should not be placed in single stream recycling containers such as plastic bags, Styrofoam, black plastic, and waxy or plastic lined paper containers.
  • Evaluate area composting service providers for compatibility with compostable ware before selecting these items.

For more information, RecyclingWorks offers resources on food waste diversion and specific information for restaurants, as well as no-cost technical assistance to provide one-on-one support. To speak to a RecyclingWorks recycling expert, call our hotline: (888) 254-5525 or email us at