How to reuse. The guide.

How should I roll out reusable dishware and containers in my business?

Reusable dishware refers to all items used to wrap, hold and mix food or drink items and that can be returned to a business to be reused multiple times. The lifespan of these items will depend on what they’re made of (stainless steel, plastic, glass, etc.), as well as how they’re used, maintained (wash cycles), and stored, etc.

  • Secure your supplies, increase your resilience and your savings. Supply shortages, late deliveries, price hikes and volatility, increased energy and transportation costs—the single-use food packaging sector is increasingly unstable, which has direct impacts on businesses. With reusable products, up-front costs may be higher, but in the short- and medium-term, this investment translates into increased autonomy and greater resilience.


  • Fewer negative impacts on the environment. Most studies show that reusable containers, despite the transportation and cleaning processes necessary for their reuse, are head and shoulders above single-use containers in terms of environmental impacts, from their impact on climate change, resource use and health—but only if they’re used more than once! Choosing reusable items helps drastically reduce waste and pollution: every time we reuse an object, we’re not using up resources to the manufacturing, transportation and end-of-life management of its single-use counterpart. We’re talking about a key principle in environmentally friendly processes, which can certainly be applied beyond dishware!

A reusable container used at least 30 times has a minimal impact on the environment and is a more eco-responsible option than most single-use, compostable or recyclable packaging items! ACV Study, La vague


  • Values and customer loyalty. Implementing a reusable dishware and container system is a great opportunity for businesses to stand out from their competitors, share their values through concrete actions, and provide a system that will guarantee loyal, recurring customers.

When ordering your items :

  • Create a financial inventory of the disposable products and containers that you buy from your suppliers. This will allow you to determine their financial impact on your total expenses and give you insight into what you can change and where you can save.
  • Resist promotions (Do you really need it? What will you use it for?)
  • Invest in high-quality products, which will often have a longer lifespan.
  • Choose suppliers who work with reusable containers (products sold in bulk), or to whom you can return their containers after delivery.
  • When choosing types of reusable containers for consignment, think about what you need for your products (resistant to heat, freezing, breakage, industrial cleaning; are the containers recyclable when they can no longer be used, etc.).

For your food options :

  • Offer drinks and meals that don’t require accessories to be consumed outside of your business. For example, eliminate stir sticks by modifying how drinks are served—most drinks can be mixed before being handed to the customer.
  • Limit the distribution of non-essential single-use products like straws, stir sticks, utensils, individual condiment packets and paper napkins (stop offering them, offer them upon request, and/or add a fee).
  • Above all, make sure to continue abiding by regulatory hygiene standards when managing your food options, and when integrating new practices or new containers.

For your customers :

  • Encourage your customers to bring their own containers (boxes, trays, jars, bags, etc.). These should, however, comply with hygiene standards: they should be kept clean, have no cracks, and have a large opening.
  • Implement an incentive program–apply a discount for reusable container use and/or an additional fee on disposable items.
  • Apply a fee to certain products (types of containers) or services (for takeout and delivery).
  • Become a member of an all-included reusable container consignment service.
What's the context?
Reusable. The resources.

This guide was produced in partnership with the City of Montreal.

City of Montreal