Not single-use

Since the introduction of the first single-use hot drinks cups by American company DART in the mid 20th century we have become used to the concept of disposable take-away dishes. Initially it was considered time saving and convenient, however, problems with pollution from such plastics that have been carelessly disposed of or sent to landfill, has made us all aware that the environment and resources are precious, and that single-use plastics, particularly those derived from oil, for the delivery of fresh food and drink, can be problematic, and alternative solutions are being sought.

The idea of using food containers multiple times is becoming more popular, but it is not an altogether unfamiliar concept. The introduction of pasteurization in 1894 gave milk a longer shelf-life and its daily delivery in pre-filled bottles became widespread. Empty glass milk bottles were rinsed and left for collection by the dairy, who cleaned, sterilized and refilled them for re-use.

Increasingly there are a number of new closed-loop schemes, whereby containers that were once expendable are returned for cleaning and reuse. Designed to be robust and long lasting, some of these containers are expected to be re-used up to 1000 times and then at the end of their useful life they are recycled. A small deposit or token encourages the return of the food container and its subsequent reuse helps to reduce waste and decreases the need for additional plastics manufacturing. These closed-loop systems work especially well in environments such as works canteens and universities or takeaway restaurants. The examples shown here include containers from the Eco-to-go range (1-3). Made from break resistant and durable polypropylene (PP) they are microwave safe, stain and odour resistant and can withstand being cleaned in a commercial dishwasher.


Using ones own cup to buy hot drinks is an established practice, encouraged by incentives such as discounts on purchases. Circular&Co use recycled materials to make their cups (4-6). Believing that manufacturers should take responsibility for the things they produce, they run a take-back scheme to encourage the return of old cups for recycling, and offer a discount on the purchase of a replacement.