Reusable food boxes prove to be a 'GO'

GO Box's Laura Weiss reported her company's services doubled its amount of food containers diverted from landfills between its first and second years.

GO Box's Laura Weiss reported her company's services doubled its amount of food containers diverted from landfills between its first and second years.

Two years in, a service that aims to eliminate disposable take-out containers in downtown Portland has demonstrably cut down on waste from food carts and other grub sources.

GO Box, which provides reusable take-out containers at more than 75 food carts and other spots, has so far prevented some 25,000 disposable take out containers from entering landfills. The diversion rate more than doubled during its second year.

Owner Laura Weiss estimates that the food carts in downtown Portland use roughly 60,000 disposable containers every month, giving GO Box plenty of room for growth.

Go Box offers reusable clamshell containers, similar to the disposable plastic ones used by many carts, for an $18 per year subscription fee. Carts also pay a monthly subscription fee to offer the service, which provides drop-off locations downtown for dirty boxes, which are then washed and returned to participating carts.

Customers get a token when they drop off their dirty box, good for another reusable container at their next cart visit.

“Before GO Box, you’d get your meal in a disposable container, eat your lunch, and 20 minutes later the container was in the trash,” Weiss said. “That always bothered me and it sort of went against the green ethos of the culture here in Portland.”

GO Box picks up used containers, has them washed in a commercial kitchen and returns them clean to the vendors. Its pickups and deliveries are done by bicycle.

The company also offers a corporate program in which companies or building owners can host drop boxes in their offices or lobbies. Eighteen downtown employers are using the program.

Weiss invested $20,000 to get the business off the ground in 2011.

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