Re-usable Take-Out Boxes Take Hold in Portland

© El Cubo de Cuba

When we first wrote about Go Box, Laura Weiss' brainchild, it was in its pilot phase. Weiss, a sustainability manager, had thought hard about the hundreds of food carts that have sprung up in Portland in the last few years, making it a mecca for foodies but a big waste stream.

Weiss has calculated that 60,000 to-go containers get used each month in take-out in Portland, with most of them going straight to the landfill.

Her first attempt to reduce the plastic trash was a system where subscribing patrons could receive a re-suable plastic take-out box with their food order from participating carts, then return the boxes to a vending-machine-like station and get their membership token back.

Two tries at making the stations work right made Weiss go back to the drawing board.

Now for a one-time membership fee of $8.50 any Portland can become a member, and when getting his or her food from a participating cart receives the order in a green clamshell container.

When the pad Thai or the bulgogi tacos or the Cuban pork sandwich is all eaten up, the member dumps any food waste in the bin and returns the clamshell container to one of three Portland drop locations, where a real person returns a token to the member, who can then repeat the process, using their token.

About 600 Portlanders have become Go Box members, and 26 cart owners are also on board, according to The Oregonian.

Cart owners get a $1.50 incentive when selling memberships, and pay a small fee each time the box is used. With enough turnover, Weiss believes the re-usable to-go boxes could cost the same as regular plastic.

About 150 Go Boxes get used each week, and Weiss takes them on her bicycle for an industrial-strength wash at one of two local restaurants helping her out free of charge.

Now the challenge is to scale the program to ten times its current size, Weiss has said.

Tags: Food Safety | Plastics | Pollution | Waste