Reusable food containers are becoming increasingly popular in the takeout and delivery industry as an effort to decrease the prevalence of single-use plastic packaging. Uber Eats has recently partnered with DeliverZero, a New York-based startup that provides reusable containers for takeout and delivery. The two companies have launched a pilot program in New York City that will closely monitor operations and gather information on customer behavior.
Daniza Muliawan, who works on Uber Eats’ strategic initiatives, has stated that the company will closely monitor the volume of first-time vs. repeat users and work with DeliverZero to track return rates. People who work as couriers for Uber Eats won’t have to do anything differently when picking up or dropping off orders in reusable containers.
While currently, there are no incentives for customers to return the containers, DeliverZero’s data shows that approximately 70% of existing customers return the packaging at a participating restaurant instead of scheduling a pickup. Muliawan noted that the New York pilot program will continue for an unspecified amount of time, and the containers are BPA-free polypropylene designed to be reused up to 1,000 times.
This news follows DeliverZero’s recent integration with restaurant software company Toast for orders in New York, Chicago, and the Denver area. DeliverZero also acquired Colorado-based reusable takeout container startup Repeater last year, and it previously partnered with third-party food delivery service DoorDash for reuse pilots. DoorDash recently opened applications for local New York and New Jersey restaurants interested in participating in an accelerator program, and those selected for the cohort will receive reusable packaging from DeliverZero. In addition, Grubhub and reusable packaging partner Topanga.io have also recently started offering reusable container options for takeout and delivery on college campuses.
Furthermore, local, state, and federal governments are examining reuse programs. A bill introduced in the New York City Council this month would require some restaurants to offer customers the option of returnable, reusable containers instead of only single-use packaging. At an event in Washington, D.C., speakers discussed how to scale up reuse systems, including by providing funding. A U.S. EPA representative said the agency is “all in on embracing the reuse movement,” and a representative from the White House Council on Environmental Quality said reuse is a big part of solving the plastic pollution crisis because “we cannot recycle our way out of [it].”
As Uber Eats and DeliverZero continue to pilot this program and gather data, it’s clear that the reuse movement is gaining traction in the food industry, and it will be interesting to see how other companies and governments follow suit.