Every night across Australia, eco-savvy diners are embracing a new kind of BYO – and the nifty website that’s helping them find where to do it.
Trashless Takeaway lists cafes, restaurants, bakeries and more across Australia that are happy for customers to BYO containers. Launched earlier this year, the website has expanded rapidly as awareness grows about the effects that millions of tonnes of plastic, including takeaway boxes, can have on our oceans, as they break up into millions of tiny pieces that can be consumed by marine life.
And what cuisine is most popular with Australia’s new-style BYO-ers?
Japanese, followed by Indian, says Tasmania-based Nyssa Maisch, who launched the site with her husband Kim in January.
“It came about when I was pregnant with my son, who's now almost a year old. We started getting a lot more takeaway food than what we would normally get, mainly because we were tired and a bit rundown. And we were just horrified with the amount of leftover plastic that we were left with afterwards,” she says. “And so we started taking in our own containers to get Indian or Thai or whatever, but we found that not all takeaway restaurants would accept them.
“We thought, oh, wouldn't it be nice to know beforehand which takeaway shop, or café, or restaurant would accept our containers?”
Users can search the Trashless Takeaway by suburb or postcode, or use a filter function to focus on particular cuisines and listings in other categories, such as butchers, delis, bulk wholefoods retailers and places offering alcohol refills.
And if you’ve found a local takeaway that welcomes BYO containers that’s not listed, you can add it to the map.
So does taking your own containers comply with health and safety regulations?
We asked Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the independent government body that develops Australia’s food standards, covering the use of ingredients, food labelling and the like.
“There is nothing in the Food Standards Code covering consumers bringing in their own containers to store food bought from a takeaway shop,” a FSANZ spokesperson tells SBS Food. “However, it’s important to note that the local food enforcement agencies are responsible for interpretation and enforcement and they may have their own requirements or advice.”
A NSW Food Authority spokesperson explains that it’s up to retailers to decide. “There is nothing preventing consumers from making the request. However retailers do have discretion as to whether they accept them …. While re-usable containers are good for the environment, food handlers do not have to accept them, especially if they are dirty.”
And if you’re taking your own containers to ‘doggy bag’ your leftovers when eating out, the situation is much the same.
Maisch says they’ve seen more and more businesses welcoming BYO containers.
“You see a lot of butchers and takeaway shops actually now have little signs up on their counters saying, ‘yes, we do accept your own containers’, and some businesses offer a discount, which is really good to see.”
The site was initially set up with just takeaway food in mind, but the couple noticed users adding other business types, so they created more categories.
You can now use the site to find out where to get refills of beer, wine or milk in your own bottles; find a BYO-friendly butcher; buy plastic-free baked goods and deli items; or narrow your takeaway search to vegetarian and vegan food – and if you find somewhere else that welcomes container BYO, the Maischs would love it if you added it to the list.