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The City of Portland, Oregon

Sustainability at Work

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Reusable Dishware in Offices

You Asked, We Answer: How do I make the switch from disposable to reusable dishware? 

Reusable items are the best environmental option, and they're often cheaper in the long run (read more). They're also nicer to use - ever try cutting something with a plastic knife?

Durable, reusable dishware and flatware 
Ceramic, glass, metal and heavy duty plastic can all be washed and reused over and over again.

Five items that are easy to switch from disposable to reusable

Whether you’re an office or a restaurant, here are some ways to switch it up.

  1. Reusable mugs, drinking glasses and other cups.
  2. Reusable bowls and plates.
  3. Durable forks, knives and spoons.
  4. Metal coffee filters and loose-leaf tea steepers.
  5. Join Go Box to use reusable containers at select food carts and other vendors.

Catered events?

For catered events, avoid individual packaging – bags, boxes, individually wrapped sandwiches and cookies – by doing these things:

  • Serve food buffet or “family style.”
  • Serve drinks and water in pitchers.
  • Provide real dishware and silverware.

Added bonus: real dishes and silverware look and feel nicer (ever try cutting something with a plastic knife?).

Set up suggestions

Switching from disposable to durable means adding or potentially expanding a dishwashing system. To learn how other local businesses have made this switch, check out case studies of an office and a restaurant.

Save money and resources: Buy used durable dishware

Buying used dishware and cutlery is good for your budget and the environment.

By buying used, you’re:

  • Saving the energy and resources that would go into creating new products.
  • Keeping usable goods from going to the landfill.
  • Supporting the local reuse economy.

Find used dishware - full sets or mix and match pieces - at local restaurant supply stores, Craigslist or thrift stores.

Tip: When buying durable, reusable plastic, make sure it’s BPA-free. BPA, sometimes found in reusable plastic or aluminum, is linked to cancer and developmental toxicity [1].

Questions? Ready to start using more durables in your workplace, but not sure where to start? Contact us!


1] Cressey, Daniel. "Debate Builds over Regulation of Bisphenol A and Other Endocrine Disruptors." Scientific American Global RSS. Scientific American and Nature, 20 Sept. 2013. Web. 19 June 2014.

2] Baird, Colin, and Michael C. Cann. Environmental Chemistry. Fifth ed. New York: W.H. Freeman, 2012. Print.

Research conducted in 2014.