Sustainability | Ecotrope

At Portland food carts: Reusable to-go boxes

Ecotrope | Jan. 18, 2011 9:01 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:42 p.m.

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Can I get that in a reusable eco-friendly plastic? Next month you can – at some downtown Portland food carts

Can I get that in a reusable eco-friendly plastic? Next month you can – at some downtown Portland food carts

A new business called GO Box is helping Portland food carts and food cart lovers drop their disposable to-go box habit. The first pilot phase of a reusable to-go box service launched in September with three food carts and 30 customers participating, and the second phase starts next month. Business owner Laura Weiss said her goal is to cut down on the 60,000 containers a month that downtown Portland food carts serve up – and that land in the trash shortly after.

From Neighborhood Notes on Food Cart Culture:

“The basic idea of GO Box is this: customers pay a one-time fee of $8.50 and get a token. They hand in their token at participating carts, and their meal is served in a hard plastic, reusable container. When they’re done eating, at their leisure, they put the container in a drop box, which gives them their next token.

‘As long as you don’t lose your container or token, you’re in,’ Weiss says. ‘There will be at least one drop box per pod where we have participating vendors. And the plan is to make the tokens from recycled yogurt containers.’ …

… Weiss plans to work with restaurants near each pod to have the containers washed professionally; she contracted with Bijou Café downtown during the test phase, when she worked with three carts in the pod at Southwest 5th and Stark. And, in a pure Portland twist, all of this is handled by Weiss on her bicycle.

From a cart owner’s perspective, Weiss says they can save money on containers, especially if they have higher volume.

‘Vendors sign up and get a certain number of clean containers each day,’ she says. ‘They also get $1.50 from each $8.50 signup, so it’s in their interest to sign people up. And the more containers they use, the more savings they get.’

In a quick Google search I found three colleges that have launched similar reusable to-go box programs on their campuses:

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