News Steel

Pilot project converts Nanaimo’s take-out packaging to stainless steel


Users then have a week to rinse, but not wash, the containers and drop it back off at any of the participating businesses. The containers are then washed and sanitized at a separate facility before being sent back to the restaurants.

Leslie, who shuttered her cooking school business due to COVID-19, said the pandemic increased the volume of single-use containers ending up in a landfill.

She added even biodegradable or compostable options made from bio-plastic sources like corn starch, leave behind a sizeable footprint.

“Most of our (bio-) plastic orcompostables are not returnable so people don’t know where to put them because they’re not compostable unless your city has an industrial composting plant which we (Nanaimo) do not so they end up in the landfill or pollute the recycling system.”

The stainless steel containers are made from 30 to 70 per cent recycled stainless steel and once used around 50 times, Leslie said the footprint becomes effectively zero compared to single-use take-out containers.

Leslie added stainless steel can also be used thousands of times and recycled indefinitely.

Accompanying lids on the containers will be made of a compostable polymer plastic, however Leslie said those too will be recycled by a company which makes soft, outdoor floor tiles for playgrounds.

Nanaimo’s Buzz Coffee House is one of five local eateries to sign onto the pilot project and will begin offering the containers as of Wednesday, Sept. 15.

Co-owner Phil Baker said the pandemic opened their eyes to the amount of waste their business created.

“We’ve been spending the last year and a bit making a lot of take out coffees and food orders and we just really want to help the amount of waste we’re putting into the environment.”

Other businesses involved in the pilot include Melange, Baby Salsa, Gaya Sushi and Curry Culture.

Baker said the price point was similar to his current supply of compostable food and drink containers, making the decision to join a “no brainer.”

“I’ve talked to [Island Health] and they would much rather go this route with the reusables that get sanitized off-site than having personal mugs, which they view as gross and yucky, behind the till. For me it’s an eventuality and I’d rather get on it now than be a late adopter.”

Baker said if more restaurants and coffee shops come online, users could feasibly pick up a meal and coffee in Nanaimo for a road trip, before dropping the containers off at a participating business in Victoria, Tofino, Vancouver or other adopting cities.

More information on Reusables VI is available on their website.

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On Twitter: @alexrawnsley


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