Many cities in the US have banned plastic bags, and more are added to the list regularly. In addition, some cities are even beginning to ban plastic water bottles.

These bans (and in some cases, fees) encourage people to bring their own bags or bottles. Many retailers, regardless of local restrictions, also provide discounts for customers bringing their own bags or beverage containers (such as coffee cups).

So, is the logical next step fees on take-out containers, or restaurants which provide discounts to customers who bring their own plates or silverware (instead of taking disposable versions from the restaurant)?

Has this been tried successfully anywhere?

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    Ah, that makes more sense now. In which case... yes: our local-to-work cafe/takeaway outlet will fill my container with hot chips. No discount, but I already get more than I can eat for the low price they charge so I'm happy.
    – Móż
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 1:12
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    One issue with allowing customers to supply their dishes is the potential for food contamination from the customers dishes. If the dishes haven't been cleaned properly, or pick up harmful bacteria from, say, the back seat of the car or the bus seat or floor & the spoon used to put food into a dish then touches the seemingly clean, but contaminated dish & gets placed into the food transferring the bugs resulting in a potential food poisoning issue.
    – Fred
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 7:15
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    @Móż what is this concept of "more chips than I can eat"? I don't understand
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 9:28
  • @Fred how could this be resolved? Sanitizers for the serving spoons?
    – LShaver
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 15:21
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    Maybe interesting for you to know that in some countries in Europe there are shops, so not restaurants, where you have to bring your own containers/bags/... to store the food bought. Wouldn't be surprised if this exists in the US as well actually as it seems just so logical to immediately put food in the container you'll use to store it at home anyway.
    – stijn
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 19:59

1 Answer 1


I know of one independent place that happily refills the containers they use, if you bring them back clean. In this case the container is used as a portion measure so it wouldn't work with arbitrary dishes. In this case they were the typical plastic takeaway boxes (amazon link). A couple of my colleagues did this; I didn't as I could dishwash and reuse them at home instead (you only get a few uses out of them anyway)

This is in the UK where we're fairly strict on food hygiene but less worried about litigation than some places. It may be against a strict interpretation of the rules. If food is kept hot (or promptly and properly reheated), the risks from invisible contamination should be vanishingly low.

I wouldn't expect a discount (except maybe a token amount) as these containers are cheap -- the amazon listing above works out to 13p (<$0.20) each and they'd cost a lot less than that wholesale.

The reason this isn't more common is probably the same reason that many ideas here aren't common -- nobody cares (to a good approximation of "nobody"). Few individuals could be bothered to wash them up. For big businesses it would save very little and they'd be worried enough about liability to incur costs just for considering it.

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