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Sustainability Activists Raise Money For Green Restaurant Take-Out System

a sustainable carry-out box
Courtesy of Damian House
A Durham GreenToGo box, a reusable restaurant carry-out container that could be used in Durham.

Sustainability advocates are raising money to create a reusable restaurant carry-out container system in Durham.

Crystal Dreisbach is the chairwoman of Don't Waste Durham. Her group estimates that downtown restaurants contribute a half-a-ton of waste from disposable carry out containers alone.

Recyclable and compostable containers often aren't disposed of properly, Dreisbach said, so they end up being wasted in a landfill. She said reusing the same containers is greener.

"Restaurant workers are not allowed to handle outside containers for health and safety reasons," Dreisbach said. "So I thought, 'Well, why don't we bypass that problem altogether and have a checking-in/checking-out system kind of like returnable milk bottles, whereby all the washing is done at the level of the commercial dishwasher'?"

The Durham GreenToGo box looks like a typical clamshell-style carryout container, but it's made of translucent green plastic. After finishing their carry-out, users could return their container to a series of collection bins, where it would be commercial washed and redistributed.

"One GreenToGo Box could equal 10 to 12,000 disposable ones. So it can withstand up to 12,000 washes before it starts to break down," Dreisbach said.

A Kickstarter campaign is underway to create the GreenToGo Box  system. Dreisbach said the fundraiser would cover the the carryout boxes and return bins, as well as carbon neutral pickup: such as cargo bikes or pedal-powered ELF vehicles.

The fundraising campaign runs until December 6.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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