Frequently asked questions

We are thrilled you want to start reusing your containers to help reduce waste and plastic. It wasn’t that long ago reusing bags, bottles, cups, containers was the norm. You might even like to ask the older generation about how they collected their Chinese takeaway in saucepans and other containers in the 70s and 80s. True story! Below are a list of frequently asked questions to help you get started, with or without your saucepans.
What containers should I use?

Customers are responsible to provide clean and sanitised, non-porous containers free of visible debris, grease, odours and stains, which are fit for purpose and undamaged.

For anything else we recommend containers made from durable materials (eg. plastic, metal or glass) construction which seal well and are easy to clean. Pull out the Tupperware you have stashed away or invest in new containers for the job. If you are collecting vegetables, fruit, and some dry bulk food collect these in a reusable produce bag.

The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) code prohibits reuse of single use containers such as takeaway containers (Chapter 3, item 23 of Standard 3.2.2). https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2014C01204

It is good practice to ask yourself, does it look like my container presents a contamination risk, if yes then don’t present it to a business. Remember, businesses consider contamination risks carefully and have the right to refuse unsuitable containers.

Visit our map to find a business near you that accepts reusables.

Please note that some businesses may require you to purchase a new container first, such as an alcohol refill retailer, milk/mylk provider, or beauty brand. If you are unsure, pop in to ask or call ahead.

How do I approach a new business that might not be on the map?
  1. Explain you are trying to avoid single use.
  2. Present your container and ask if they are able to accept it, have tongs/scoop and can tare/zero the scales.
  3. Be ready to kindly remind them you do not need a plastic bag if they reach for it out of habit.
  4. Smile and be friendly as you explain your request. Remember this may be the first time the store person has dealt with a BYO container request. The store may not have a BYOC policy in place, they may be unsure if their management allows it or how to do it safely.
  5. If you can, shop at a quieter time to allow the store-person time to ask questions and carefully consider your request.
  6. Thank them for accepting your container and ask if they would be happy to be added to the BYO Containers map
Can a business refuse to use a customer’s reusable container?

The short answer is yes, it is the businesses decision whether or not reusable containers are accepted. This may be due to a customer’s container being unsuitable (the wrong size, damaged or dirty). Make sure your containers are well cleaned, sturdy and fit for purpose.

 

Should a business decline citing Food Standards, Local Government laws, or OH&S this is incorrect information. You could be their first customer asking to bring your containers and they replied with the above as they were unsure what to do. But ultimately, they are allowed to decline and it is within their rights.

 

We have the correct information on our resources for businesses page (link) and we encourage you to politely direct them towards it by emailing a link or leaving one of our flyers (link) with them.

Whose responsibility is it to wash a reusable container provided to a restaurant/café?

It is the customers responsibility to ensure they have thoroughly washed their reusable containers before requesting a business use it (in the same way they would wash their crockery at home).

What is the best way to clean my container?

The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Appendix 6 outlines several effective methods for how to clean and sanitise utensils and food contact surfaces, such as containers. The simplest of which are outlined below and are readily achievable by customers in the home:

Domestic dishwashers (Preferred method): Standard wash cycles and detergents are adequate, however longer and heavy duty cycles produce the best results. Rinse heavily soiled containers first to ensure food residue does not protect bacteria.

Hand washing: Thoroughly wash in 54-60°C water with detergent, rinse, sanitise by immersing in 77-80°C hot water for at least 30 seconds, then air dry.

We recommend containers after cleaning, sanitising and drying are stored sealed with lid on until used to remain sanitised. Please be especially careful in the case of purchasing ready to eat food such as deli items which are not intended to be further cooked and thereby sterilised at home.

Are there any health and safety rules to do with using reusable containers?

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) develop and maintains the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code which is enforced by state and territory departments, agencies and local Councils in Australia. At this time FSANZ does not maintain any information relating to the use of reusable containers. It is up to each business to determine their own policies and procedures when using customers reusable containers. For further reading visit the FSANZ website.

In cases where a store does not accept your container can I ask why?

Depending on their response you may like to ask if there is a suitable time when you could discuss your request with a manager or leave them one of our flyers (link) and refer them to our website to find out more about the campaign.

Be polite and understanding of their concerns. Their food safety plan and risk assessments may require an amendment before they can accept reusable containers. At the end of the day it is the retailer’s choice whether to accept or not. Stores that don’t say yes today may change their mind if enough customers approach them in a considerate manner.

What about COVID-19 Safety?

In 2020, over one hundred doctors, scientists, and academics in related fields signed a joint statement indicating reusables could be used safely. To read the statement click here. In Australia there has been no direction from Federal or State governments indicating the end of reusables either. For example the current statement from the Victorian State Government Health and Human Services is this “There is currently no evidence to suggest there is any benefit in switching to disposables. It is important that the measures we take to minimise transmission are effective. The most effective measures you can take are practising good hand hygiene and cleaning, with particular focus on shared, frequently touched surfaces.”

However, it is up to each individual business to decline reusables should they wish.

What should I do if I forget my reusables for something like takeaway food?

This will happen to all of us, especially at the beginning

  1. Choose to sit down and enjoy your meal, using real crockery and cutlery.
  2. Look on our map for places that offer ‘swap and go’ programs. This is an in-house reusables scheme that allows customers to borrow a reusable container for their meal to be returned later.
  3. If you need to get it takeaway, opt for less plastic and make sure it is disposed of properly whether it’s compostable, recycling or landfill
What about compostable cardboard/paper and compostable plastic options?

Single-use compostable cardboard/paper and compostable plastics options have an impact through their life cycle. Each component needs to be manufactured, shipped, and disposed of requiring  resources like old growth forests and fossil fuels.

Most compostable cardboard/paper food ware not lined with plastic can be accepted by home composting systems or industrial composting facilities. Yet these services are not available everywhere in Australia or at a scale to match use. Although cardboard and paper is accepted for recycling, it should only be recycled without food on it unless specified by your local Council. Recycling is also not the solution to reduce single-use and waste as it requires energy and fuel to run, and continues the single-use mentality.

Not all cardboard/paper food ware is made equally. Some could potentially have a lining of plastic or PFASs. PFAS’s are forever chemicals that build up in our environment and bodies, and are used in cardboard/paper food ware to repel oil.

Compostable Plastic is often made from sugarcane or potato starch, that requires volumes of land to grow while contaminating water and soil with the use of fertilisers. Without proper collection facilities compostable plastics can still run the risk of pollution and harming wildlife. These products often end up in landfill where they release methane gas (a known climate change contributor) or contaminating recycling.

Simply the most sustainable option is to reuse.

I love reusing my containers, how can I help my workplace to reduce single-use?

We love your enthusiasm! Set up a reusables station in your workplace with mugs and containers encouraging your coworkers to use them to get takeaway lunch or your workplace can invest in a kit from Retub, Replated or Returnr. Make sure everyone cleans their container properly between uses.