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New project offers reusable takeout containers to Guelph restaurants

Discouraged by the amount of food takeout containers littering the streets, Jacquie Hutchings and Kayli Dale knew they wanted to help people make a change for the better

Discouraged by the amount of food takeout containers littering the streets, Jacquie Hutchings and Kayli Dale knew they wanted to help people make a change for the better. And so was born A Friendlier Company, which partners with restaurants and cafes to offer reusable food containers on a deposit system.

“Our goal is to make the biggest impact that we can,” said Hutchings. “Our idea is to make this as sustainable and as affordable as possible so we can scale it really easily and make a mass impact.”

Here’s how it works: Participating businesses provide customers with reusable food takeout containers and collect a deposit – 50 cents or $1 each, depending on the size; when people are done with their food, they scan a QR code on the back, which is linked to an account they’ve registered, and return the container to any participating business.

The restaurants pay A Friendlier Company for the service, which they say is comparable in price to traditional containers and cheaper than compostable ones.

When the containers are picked up, customers receive an e-transfer to return their deposit.

Once collected, containers are put through a high-temperature commercial dishwasher to be cleaned and sanitized, then delivered back to businesses to provide customers.

“It’s very similar to The Beer Store,” Hutchings said of the deposit on bottles – a system many people are familiar with.

The company launched its first big test on Friday, with its containers being used at The Cornerstone restaurant and Corner Market Guelph on Wyndham Street.

“It's great. It's super simple,” owner Mark Rodford said of the customer reaction to these reusable containers. "Guelph is very conscious about their footprint and their impact on the Earth, so it's a great place for them to start."

A “soft launch” for their containers was held at Carbon Cafe on Chancellors Way in late October and participants in The Seed, an initiative that provides healthy food to people experiencing food insecurity, have been using them for about a month now. The latter doesn’t require deposits.

“It’s going well. We’ve received lots of positive feedback,” Hutchings said of the early initiatives. “We’ve been getting increasing amounts of returns (through The Seed), we see more than half of our containers that we’re putting out are coming back, which is great because there is no financial incentive for them to return.”

Though Hutchings now lives in Guelph, she hails from Windsor. Similarly, Dale comes from the London area.

So why did they decide to launch their reusable container program in Guelph? 

When they were first looking for a location, they conducted surveys and interviewed a variety of business owners. 

“Guelph, we had the best response,” Hutchings said. “Guelph is such a green city and everyone has this environmental appreciation within them. We saw Guelph as a great opportunity to be our launch, where we could test this out and prove this out.”

The people of Guelph, she added, have “a really great environmental instinct within them.” They're hoping to sign up all restaurants and cafes in the city, with plans to expand to other areas.

To learn more about A Friendlier Company and its reusable food containers, visit www.afriendliercompany.ca.