Plastic was developed a century-and-a-half ago as a way to protect the environment. Today, the environment is suffocated by mounting plastic-packed landfills, the negative repercussions of which affect almost every element of life on earth.
Thankfully, eco-conscious citizens and committed startups across the world are searching for solutions.
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Enter Jamie Forsyth. The founder of reusable coffee cup business KeepCup has now developed Returnr, a new environmental initiative that seeks to address waste in food packaging by replacing single-use takeaway containers with a reusable option.
The initiative works by offering customers free reusable or biodegradable bowls and containers from participating outlets. Users need to request their food in a Returnr bowl, pay a $5 deposit, and then rinse and return the bowl to any participating cafe to have the deposit restored.
"Nobody wants to keep buying plastic containers and filling them with food and throwing them out, but consumers do demand that and the solutions are tricky,” Forsyth told the Canberra Times. “With Returnr, I am trying to slot a neat little hole that is sustainable for the cafe and environmentally friendly."
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Returnr is currently in 10 outlets throughout Melbourne.
Son Monah, the owner of cafe-turned-salad bar Blue Bag, said her customers had been thrilled by the bowls.
"The idea is a no-brainer,” Monah told the Canberra Times. "The customer response was overwhelming. The first day we went through 100 bowls. In a perfect world, people should be paying for takeaway packaging and bringing your own bowls should be free."
Monah believes Forsyth latest initiative will go global in much the same way as his KeepCup product.
The KeepCup, developed in 2009, has become synonymous with the global recyclable coffee cup movement. The company, which Forsyth runs with sister Abigail, saves the purchase of 5 million disposable coffee cups each day. Much like the majority of single-use takeaway packaging, coffee cups cannot be recycled because they are lined with plastic.
Australia remains one of the highest waste-producers in the world. Australians use more than 10 million plastic straws every day and upwards of 9.7 billion single-use plastic bags each year. In recent months, however, large corporations like McDonald's Australia and supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles ditched the plastic straw and plastic bag from their stores, respectively.
Regardless, Greenpeace Australia has called for further measures to be enforced.
"Obviously Greenpeace would like to see a phase-out of all single-use plastics across the board. We know that plastics is a looming problem for our environment and our society," Greenpeace stated. “In order to truly make a dent in our plastic waste issue on a national scale, we need 100% commitment from our government – as well as all businesses.”