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The City of Portland, Oregon

Sustainability at Work

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Reusable Dishware in Restaurants

Adapted from resources created by ReThink Disposable.

Communicate with customers: ask before giving disposables, and display signage about reusable options.

  • Always ask if meal is “for here” or “to go”
  • Always ask before giving out disposables (bags, receipts, etc.)
  • When making the switch from disposable to durable dishware, display signage indicating what changes have been made and why, as well as customer options.
  • Make sure staff understand durable dishware policies and practices, as well as the “why” behind then, so they can answer customer questions.

Replace disposable food ware with reusable food ware for on-site dining.

  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Cups
  • Mugs
  • Cutlery and chopsticks
  • Coffee stir sticks (replace with reusable spoons)
  • Condiment or side order containers
  • Food trays

Bulk Items: Eliminate individually wrapped items and replace with bulk alternatives.

condiments and napkins

  • Condiments (ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, mayonnaise, etc.), sugar and other sweeteners, seasonings (salt, pepper, parmesan, hot flakes)
  • Straws and cutlery

Non-Necessary Disposables: Eliminate non-necessary disposable items or make available upon request only.

  • Straws
  • Drink stirrers (wood and plastic) and toothpicks
  • Hand wipes and bibs
  • Food wrap (burrito wrap, sandwich wrap, etc.)

Self-Serve Disposables: Make optional disposable items self-serve.

  • Drink lids and sleeves
  • Food container lids and utensils
  • Napkins (in a dispenser that distributes one napkin at a time)

To-Go Food and Drink.

  • Offer and advertise reusable cup incentive (have signage and financial incentive)
  • Offer and advertise reusable container incentive for food to-go (have signage and financial incentive)
  • Offer and advertise discount for customers bringing their own bag

Buy Recycled content: for any remaining disposables.

  • Purchase products with as much post-consumer recycled content as available.
  • Buy products with sustainably sourced materials 

Thanks to ReThink Disposable for letting us share this great information (please note: ReThink Disposable is based in California; their assistance and resources aren’t currently available in the Portland area).

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