Resources for Businesses
Single-use plastic and waste has become one of the top concerns for Australians.
State and Territories around the country are setting targets to phase out many items businesses currently use. Some locations are ahead of the solutions and are already saying yes to customers bringing their own containers.
Here you will find more information to help you get started.
Why get involved with BYO Containers?
Single-use items are not only an environmental concern, they cost a business money and time. The less of these you hand out or spend time ordering the more you’ll save.
To manufacture, ship, and dispose of any type of single-use item whether it’s plastic or paper is resource intensive. Allowing customers to shop with their reusables containers is the simplest way to reduce plastic and waste, while helping change habits.
We define a reusable container to be anything that can safely carry an item away; a bag, coffee cup, lunch box, glass bottle, tiffin, growler, and the tupperware stuffed into cupboards at home.
The Act, Code and Regulations
The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) confirms there are no food safety laws in Australia preventing businesses from letting customers use their own containers. Ultimately individual businesses have the authority to approve or decline customers from bringing their own containers.
Official advice from Australian New Zealand Food standards
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) develops and maintains the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (Code) which is enforced by state and territory departments, agencies and local councils in Australia.
For those businesses that choose to accept customer containers this can be done so safely, provided basic hygiene measures are followed in accordance with the relevant Act, Code and Regulations.
*Depending on your businesses there could be rules that stop a customer from bringing their own personal container. For example, alcohol refills may be sold in a predetermined sized bottle or growler the customer purchases first, and may bring back for refills going forward. Meat sold at Farmers Markets are required to package produce before transport to market.
Each Australian state and territory is responsible to interpret the Australian New Zealand Food standards code. Subject to your business category, you may first need to update your food safety program and risk assessment and inform your regulator before implementation. A Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) can assess your risk and assist with this step. Primesafe regulated businesses in particular must follow this process.
Visit Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) for more information.
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.
Businesses, download our free poster and display it prominently to show your customers you welcome BYO Containers.
Customers, take our flyer and pledge form into your favourite stores to sign them up and add them to the BYOC map.
If you are a council or large commercial business and would like to use our resources please contact us to discuss co-branding and other options.
Tips to get started
Tips for business owners
Train your staff how to provide food to customers in their own containers safely in accordance with your food safety program and risk assessment. You might want to provide extra tongs/scoops for staff.
If you sell food by weight, show the staff how to use the scale tare function (zero). Placing a sticker next to the tare button can help staff easily identify it as they learn.
Take the pledge to be included in our interactive search map and enjoy free advertising to new groups of loyal customers.
Display the BYO Containers poster or Trashless Takeaway store sticker and share it on your social media to inform your customers you accept their containers and raise awareness about single-use plastics.
Enjoy reduced packing costs and the good karma of being part of a sustainable future.
Tips for customers to clean their containers
The FSANZ Standards 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.
Declining a customers container
If a customer presents you with a container you feel presents a contamination risk, is not designed to be reused or is unsuitable for any reason, politely decline to accept it.
- Explain to the customer why their container is unsuitable and why it presents a risk.
- Advise them on what types of containers you will accept and encourage them to try again next time.
- Refer them to this website for more information.
What about compostable cardboard/paper
and compostable plastic options?
Life cycle impact
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.
PFAS and other additives
Not all cardboard/paper food ware is made equally. Some are lined with plastic and/or PFAS.
PFAS are forever chemicals that build up in our environment and bodies, and are used in cardboard/paper food ware to repel oil. While BPA has been removed from many food safe plastics, modern plastics contain a surprising number of other additives to give them properties like increased flexibility and durability which can be released into our food (especially when heated). In addition their porous surface acts as a vector for environmental pollutants, contributing to bioaccumulation of toxins as we and other animals ingest microplastics from the environment. While the full extent of long term repeated exposure to plastics has on our health is still being investigated, an increasing number of reports from the scientific community cite serious concerns for human and animal health, including reproductive decline and health conditions resulting from exposure to endocrine disrupting and carcinogenic chemicals.
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 to everyone everywhere in Australia or at a scale to match use. Paper products require large amounts of trees to be cut and are heavier to ship than plastic. 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.
Compostable Plastic is often typically made from sugarcane or potato starch, which requires volumes of land to grow while contaminating water and soil with the use of fertilisers. These plastics do not break down in home composts and require industrial composting, of which there are very few facilities available. Without a dedicated proper collection services, facilities the majority of compostable plastics often end up in landfill where they release methane gas (a known climate change contributor), contaminate recycling, or even worse, end up in the environment where they don’t break down and run the risk of polluting and harming wildlife.
Simply the most sustainable option is to reuse containers you already own.
Starting your own reusables scheme in-house
Depending on the type of business and space available, you could provide your own in-house reusables scheme. Should you invest in setting one up, the customer is expected to return the container clean, with the businesses responsible for sanitation through a dishwasher. An in-house reusables program will help reduce costs associated with the constant purchasing of new single-use options. Most retailers will put a deposit fee onto the container that the customer recoups on return.
The businesses below offer assistance and reusable products to help get your business started.
The award winning Retub program offers a Reswap program allowing a container exchange where the customers can bring in their Retub to a participating food-vendor and swap their used containers for a clean one when ordering. The rectangle containers are designed to standard takeaway container size, made of glass with a detachable silicone tub. Retub are offering a free basic set up for food vendors in Australia.
Replated offer recycled lunchbox style containers made of single-use plastic bottles and glass fibres, suitable to be washed in a commercial dishwasher. They offer support services to help set up and accept back containers that are at the end of their life, worn or broken for responsible disposal.
Returnr offer a lease scheme on a range of double-walled stainless steel bowls and cups for retailers to purchase and start your business on reducing single-use products.
Do it yourself ideas
Wangim Cups are an initiative between Darebin City Council and Darebin Zero Waste Business Network. A reusable swap and go takeaway cup was created and rolled out through the Darebin Council municipality, helping provide customers that forget their own cups avoid reusables. Perhaps you could start a conversation with your local Council to set up something similar?
A mug library is simply a collection of ceramic mugs or glass jars housed at something like a cafe, restaurant, or market stall. They are usually from places like Op Shops or used jars, and are either set out on the customers side from them to collect and pass to staff. The mugs are then returned cleaned and added back to the collection.
Milk and plant based mylks on tap are appearing at bulk stores, grocers, and even cafes. Customers can fill up glass bottles provided by you and returned clean to the store, for sanitation and reuse. Visit our map to see what stores provide this service.
Responsible Cafés are an Australian grass roots initiative helping businesses and customers reduce waste, like us! Their website offers an environmental cafe rating system, accompanied by an online map with great posters and guides to help bring positive behaviour change. If you run a café, we highly recommend you check them out.
If you are a business offering any of the above in-house schemes or something similar, let us know and we can add it to your map listing.
Hosting an event or running a market?
We recommend communicating directly with stall holders if the event or market supports reusables and encourages customers to bring them. We understand in some instances it might be easier for there to be an onsite option for visitors depending on the type of event and we recommend the below options to get started.
Bettercup offers reusable cups such as tumblers, flutes and more for large events.
Green My Plate
Green My Plate provide a one stop shop of plates, bowls, cutlery alongside compost bins, staff and dedicated wash stations for large events.
Wash Against Waste trailers
A wash against waste trailer is a portable option that can be hired out containing plates, cups, bowls, cutlery and tools for a wash up station. There are various operators around Australia.
All content provided on this Site is for informational purposes only. BYO Containers make no warranty or representation regarding the completeness, accuracy or usefulness of any information contained on this Site or associated publications (Publication) or that such information will be error-free. BYO Containers do not accept any legal liability or responsibility for any harm, injury, loss, damages, or costs directly or indirectly sustained by any party as a result of any use of, reliance on, or interpretation of, the information contained in this Publication. The information contained in this Publication is not and should not be relied upon as legal advice nor be regarded as a substitute for legal advice. Any party relying on this information should seek independent legal advice in relation to any queries they may have regarding the applicable laws in their local jurisdiction, or obligations imposed under the standards in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and by their industry regulator.