Will ‘Bring Your Own Container’ Soon Be a Thing?

California just passed a new law laying out how restaurants can safely let customers use their own reusable plastic containers and cups.



Thai Food Pad thai, Stir fry noodles with pork in Pad thai style ,served in Styrofoam of food container

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Theerapakorn, Theerapakorn

Will we all soon be toting our own containers and cups to our favorite restaurants to take home our lunchtime salad or the leftover dinner burrito? If it is true that as California goes, so goes the world, we may.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has just approved a bill establishing guidelines that allow restaurants to safely allow customers to bring their own containers to be filled on the premises. So BYOC (Bring Your Own Container!) may soon be a thing – one more tool in the effort to reduce our reliance on disposable plastics.

The new law addresses an issue that has apparently held some restaurants back from permitting patrons to bring their own containers and cups: sanitary concerns. Who’s to say that that cup someone hands over is really clean? And if it is not clean, what if it spreads pathogens and sickens other patrons?

For many restaurateurs, allowing customer-owned containers to darken their doorsteps was a battle between good for the Earth versus … gross.

“Some restaurants were doing it, but most were not because of those concerns about cross-contamination,” Matt Sutton, senior vice president, government affairs and public policy for the California Restaurant Association, said of allowing customers to bring their own reusable containers in an interview with National Restaurant News.

Now, Assembly Bill No. 619 delineates how restaurants that choose to handle customers’ containers can do so safely and underscores that the practice is strictly voluntary.

It also absolves restaurants from the responsibility to clean and sanitize the cups and containers, but puts in places certain safeguards. Under the new law, restaurants must ensure that the customer-owned containers are kept separate from serving surfaces or that the surface is sanitized after every instance in which it comes into contact with a customer-owned container. Eateries are also required to have a written cross-contamination-prevention policy in place and make it available for inspectors, in the event that they wish to see it.

The new law will also pave the way for people to bring their own cups to be filled by vendors at concerts, festivals and other events and reduce trash, SF Weekly notes.

Naama Tamir, whose New York City restaurant Lighthouse has special permission to handle customers’ reusable containers,foresees a future in which we all carry around our reusable food containers the way we do our water bottles.

“It really has to be a cultural shift,” she told NRN, adding that the new paradigm “should involve a beautiful container, something that’s chic and sexy. … something that feels special, that makes you want to keep it.”

Our reusable containers, ourselves.

Photo: iStock

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