Canada’s push to eliminate single-use item waste has been hailed as a step in the right direction for the food and beverage industry, and now, a growing push for reusable items is getting a boost in the GTHA with an app-based container lending program.
The program ‘Muuse’ originated in Singapore and was brought to Canada by Toronto-based Dream Zero. Its co-founder Scott Morrison describes the service as a library for cups and containers, allowing customers to fill-up the stainless steel vessels at no charge.
Morrison supplies the containers to participating restaurants, where customers sign them out by scanning a QR code after purchasing their food or beverage. Members have thirty days to return it at another participating location by signing it back in with another QR code scan.
“When it’s returned, it’s washed according to Ontario food premise regulations and Toronto Public Health standards, and then it’s made available again,” he said.
For consumers, it’s free, and while Dream Zero supplies the containers, cafés and restaurants are charged a rotation fee of 15 cents per container and seven cents a cup. In comparison, Morrison said a single-use cup, sleeve, and lid costs about 35 cents.
Muuse sees about 1,500 borrows per month across its 27 Toronto locations, but that’s expected to grow as many more businesses sign-up.
Morrison said up to 50 locations are going to be added in the coming months on Queen Street East, between the Don Valley Parkway and the Beaches. The increased locations across neighbouring areas, he said, will help assess consumer habits with the reusable vessels.
“We want to really understand the flow of materials a little bit better, so this program,” said Morrison, “this zero waste zone, will help us understand that a little bit better.”
The move towards reusable containers already has the support of the Toronto Environmental alliance. Waste campaigner Emily Alfred said they will help remove the tendency to swap one single-use item for another.
“A lot of things called compostable plastics aren’t actually compostable in Toronto’s system,” said Alfred. “They cost businesses more and they’re not really much better for the environment. The real solution is to switch to reusables.”
Currently Toronto is looking into other methods the city could adopt to reduce waste. Annette Synowiec with the city’s Solid Waste Management Services said the city recently launched a program reviewing single-use products for businesses.
“Businesses can sign up for a survey with the city, to share what measures they may be taking,” she said.
Synowiec said committee and council will receive a report in 2023, looking at other considerations, which could include suggestions to create fees for certain items or a bylaw requiring customers to “ask first” for things like cutlery or straws.
Synowiec said the city is also looking to connect businesses with other service providers that might be offering reusable take-away containers.