Accepting reusables at your business

Last updated: 1 February 2023

The use of reusable containers is legal and an easy, affordable and sustainable solution businesses can adopt to manage the single-use plastic ban.

Victoria’s food safety legislation (the Food Act 1984, the Meat Industry Act 1993 and the Seafood Safety Act 2003) does not prohibit food businesses, retail butcher shops and seafood retailers from accepting reusable containers from customers.

Individual businesses can decide whether or not to allow customers to use their own containers to take away retail products. Retail businesses should consider all applicable food safety standards to put measures in place to ensure the use of reusable containers does not impact the safety or suitability of retail products for human consumption.

Why should you accept reusables?

More than ever, consumers want to reduce their waste. A 2021 Sustainability Victoria (SV) study found there is genuine interest in reducing the use of single-use plastics (SUPs); however, there is a view that it is difficult for an individual to act because it is unavoidable to buy products without plastic.

This research confirmed that the environmental issues that single-use plastics pose is already entrenched in the minds of Victorians. There is a generally good understanding that SUPs impact out environment by creating landfill, polluting our oceans and other natural resources. Victorians are ready for change.

Businesses can provide the solution for their customer, and inform customers that they accept reusable containers, creating cultural norms to bringing your own (BYO).

Benefits of reusables

  • Businesses will save money on purchasing disposable packaging.
  • Increase customer loyalty. Welcoming reusables may encourage customers to return to their favourite business as you prioritise sustainability.
  • Reduce waste ending up in landfill and our environment.
  • Free advertising. Take the pledge to be included in the interactive search map and reach new customers committed to a sustainable future.

How to accept reusables

The use of reusables by Victorians is on the rise. A recent SV survey found that 60% of survey respondents used a reusable cup more than 3 times a week in 2021 compared to just 21% in 2020.

To reduce the use of single-use items, your business could accept and encourage customers to bring the following reusable items:

  • Drinking straws – BYO straw especially for items such as bubble tea or smoothies.
  • Plastic plates – BYO food container including bowls or plates, especially regular customers.
  • Expanded polystyrene food containers BYO food container including bowls or plates or offer a reusable container service for takeaway.
  • Expanded polystyrene drink cups – BYO cups or offer a reusable cup service for takeaway.
  • Plastic cutlery including knives, forks, spoons, chopsticks, sporks, splades and food picks – dine in rather than use takeaway cutlery or BYO cutlery.

Communications resources

To help you communicate to your customers that reusables are welcome, download and print a Reuse poster in English and additional languages.

Quick tips

  • If a customer brings a container that does not look clean or is not designed to be reused or is unsuitable for any reason, politely decline to accept it. Explain to the customer why their container is unsuitable and advise them on what types of containers you will accept to encourage them to try again next time.
  • Consider financial incentives for customers who BYO, such as reducing item price by the savings made on packaging.
  • Encourage uptake by simply thanking your customers for their commitment to reducing single-use packaging.

BYO Containers has excellent tips for businesses getting started.

Reusable solutions for your business

These companies provide a variety of options to fit your business needs:

Reuse systems in hospitality

  • BYO Containers – their website helps customers find restaurants and cafes across Australia that accept reusable containers
  • Returnr – offers a range of products that can be used in substitute for single-use packaging.
  • Infinity Box – offers a trash-less takeaway container solution.
  • Green Caffeen – a free reusable coffee cup system for eco-focused cafes across Australia.
  • Retub – a container exchange program for cafes
  • HuskeeSwap – a reusable system for cafes to transition away from single-use disposable cups.
  • Skip Zero – offers a swap cup system that is changing the way we do BYO.
  • One Good Cup – created a convenient way to re-use coffee cups.

Reuse solutions for event organisers

  • B-Alternative – helps reduce the footprint of festivals and events through reusable cutlery, crockery and glassware.
  • Green My Plate – supplies reusable plates and bowls as well as wash stations and staff to events, venues and schools.
  • Better Cup – works with all types of hospitality customers to deliver reusable solutions.
  • Wash Against Waste – a Mount Alexander Sustainability Group initiative reducing the amount of waste generated at community events, servicing Castlemaine and surrounds.

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