Each year, 10 percent of the world’s plastic ends up in the ocean. That’s equivalent to 700 billion plastic bottles! Bring Me Home is working on reducing that by encouraging people to bring their own containers to pick up food.
This article was guest-written by Vicky & Dave, owners of Reusable Nation.
When we decided to remove as much waste as possible from our lives, we had to find a way to get takeaway food without the plastic containers, brown bags or (the very worst) polystyrene boxes. We are both on the go a lot and there are days when we rely on getting food from cafes or restaurants. And we didn’t want to be unable to go to festivals and food truck parks with friends.
Now that we’ve been living this way for a while, we’ve mastered getting Thai takeaway in a tiffin, falafel wraps from cafes in a sandwich pouch and baked goods in a tea towel or napkin, or just in our hands.
Before I had tried getting takeaway in our own container, I imagined getting laughed at and scorned by the server, but we’ve found the opposite to be mainly true. Oh, we’ve had some seriously confused faces and eyerolls (and no’s), but overall, we’ve been met with “no worries!”, praise and approval most of the time.
There are definitely a few things that you can do to ensure you get a smile and yes rather than a frown and a no.
No one is going to want to put food in a dirty or wet container and it is not safe for them to do so. Food safety is food vendors’ number one concern when it comes to using customers’ own containers for their food. If they think the cleanliness of your container is not up to scratch they won’t serve food in it. So, before you leave the house with your container, make sure it has been washed and dried, is not stained and doesn’t smell.
This is why we prefer metal, glass and fabric reusable container options as plastic containers tend to hold smells and are more prone to staining. In addition, we’ve found that using a good-looking container we are proud of (we love our tiffin!) makes us more confident in asking and gets us more compliments, with people asking where they can get one. We keep our various reusable receptacles clean by either washing them in the dishwasher, the sink or the washing machine.
If you would like to learn more about getting food in your own container and food safety, read our Bringing and Using Your Own Reusable Container at Food Stores: The Facts article.
It is not easy to get everything in your own container. A whole pizza is not going to fit into a tiffin or tupperware. A saucy curry is not going to survive in a sandwich pouch. So, think about what you’re going to order before you leave the house and pack an appropriate food holder.
When going to food markets, food truck parks and festivals, you may have to tailor your food choice to the food holder you have. While walking around and sussing out what we want to eat, we take what will and what won’t fit into the containers we have into consideration.
We share our favourite reusable takeaway container options in our The Best Reusable Takeaway Containers and Lunch Box article.
Getting food in your own container may be a small inconvenience for a food vendor and that is fine, no stress there; just don’t expect miracles. It is not always possible for them to use your container. Make sure that the vendor has both the ability to do it and the time to do it before asking.
For example, we avoid going to get takeaway in our own containers during peak hours and we avoid asking stalls if they are exceptionally busy. If they are already under a high level of stress, it is best to come back later when it is quieter than put a spanner in the works. And you are more likely to get a no when they are too busy worrying about other things.
When doing our rounds at food markets, food truck parks and festivals to figure out what food we want that will fit in our containers, we also suss out the food vendor’s assembly line. The way food is cooked and presented may prevent you from being able to use your own container and it may already be partially served up in a box or on a plate, ready for customers who order, meaning you won’t be able to get it in your own container.
If it won’t work for a particular food or vendor, don’t force it — eat something else off the menu that will work or go somewhere else where it won’t be as problematic for the food provider.
If you want to be 100% sure that you will be able to get the food in your own container, just call up the restaurant or cafe and ask if it will be okay. Tell them you will be coming in and would like to get the food in some food holders you’ll bring along.
This way you can walk in confident knowing it won’t be a problem.
Confidence and a smile go a long way! If you ask cheerfully and with an air of doing it all the time without any issues, what you’re doing is less likely to be questioned, whereas if you’re clearly nervous and unsure, the server will also be unsure about whether they should do it or not.
So, be courageous — we know the first few times are scary, but the more you do it, the easier it gets — and be self-assured when you ask and you’re much less likely to get a no.
If you have any more questions about getting takeaway in your own container, you can message us on our Instagram. We’re more than happy to help! And if you want to learn more about going zero waste, we’ve got heaps of articles and resources on our website.
Thank you to Bring Me Home for all they are doing to fight food waste and for encouraging people to bring their own containers!