You can now get your Deliveroo in a $6 stainless steel bowl — but you’ll have to walk it back to the restaurant

Returnr promises to replace single-use plastic at your favourite eateries (Supplied)
  • Deliveroo customers in Australia will soon be able to select stainless steel bowls and cups at checkout, avoiding single-use plastics as the food delivery service launches a new trial in Melbourne.
  • Customers will pay a deposit of $6 which will be refunded when they return the bowl or cup clean to a participating eatery, which in turn will put the bowl back into the Deliveroo system.
  • The new initiative is the brainchild of KeepCup co-founder Jamie Forsyth’s new company Returnr, as he tries to emulate his success in reducing disposable coffee cups in the broader food sector.
  • If returning to a participating store is too much trouble, Deliveroo has also partnered with BioPak to provide single-use compostable packaging. When you’re done eating, simply place it in your green waste bin or compost heap.

When it comes to single-use plastics, the food industry is one of the worst offenders.

While plastic straws are slowly getting phased out by paper versions, plastic and styrofoam takeaway food containers are proving far more resilient against environmental efforts to displace them.

The latest challenger in Australia is now coming from KeepCup co-founder Jamie Forsyth who has partnered his new company Returnr with Deliveroo, which will now provide reusable stainless steel bowls or single-use compostable bowls as options via the app in an initiative been trialed in Melbourne.

But in order to take advantage of the new green option you’ll need to pay a $6 deposit and return the bowl clean to a participating eatery within the network to receive your refund. The cafe or restaurant then puts it through a commercial dishwasher and re-enters it into the system for someone else to enjoy.

“It’s like using a food trolley where you put in a coin, you borrow it, and then when you return it, you get your refund back. Customers can return to any partner that’s within the network whenever it’s convenient for them,” Forsyth told Business Insider Australia.

“It’s really just a simple and free service that piggybacks off the existing infrastructure that exists, allowing customers to use high-quality designed bowls without the cost.”

Partnering restaurants pay a monthly membership fee which in turn is offset by a reduction in waste.

“If you have a restaurant and you’re doing a salad in a bowl, that bowl could cost anywhere between 25 and 50 cents, depending on how big it is and what material it’s made out of. The idea behind that partnership fee is that it’s the equivalent or less than what they would have spent on single-use packaging,” he said.

The offering of a reusable option comes at an important time. Since China implemented a ban on 99% of Australia’s recyclables, the country has been searching for alternatives. With many of the subsequent recipients like Malaysia and its neighbours now declaring they will start returning recycling and waste to countries like Australia, recyclable packaging no longer seems viable.

READ MORE: The West has been dumping tens of millions of tons of trash in Southeast Asian countries for more than 25 years — now they want to send it back

“Australians throw away over 1.9 million tonnes of packaging each year, enough to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground nine times over. Single-use packaging is killing our planet – that’s why we’ve created Returnr to give a sustainable alternative to eliminate single-use packaging,” Forsyth said.

While a similar tone to KeepCup, Returnr is a foray into providing a service rather than a product for the environmentally-minded. It’s currently being trialled in Melbourne at around 40 participating stores, including Belles Hot Chicken, Bowls Baby, Hanoi Hannah, and Nosh. There are plans to roll it out soon Australia-wide.

“Currently there are about 50 partners in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, but we’re about to try and push through to about 1000 partners nationally,” Forsyth said.

Achieving that kind of scale, where Australians will be able to return it to a cafe or restaurant on their block or near their work seems to be a crucial part of the puzzle. A partnership with Deliveroo, Forsyth hopes, will add the scale and convenience required for the widespread adoption.

While well-intentioned, it will be up to Australians to do their part. Deliveroo head of corporate affairs Joanne Woo told Business Insider Australia that a growing appetite for sustainability here means they will.

“Our data shows Australians are becoming more and more conscious of making smarter and more sustainable decisions. Likewise, many of the 11,000 restaurants on our platform are asking us to help them reduce waste as well and this is our solution,” Woo said.

It’s not the only one. Deliveroo appears to be hedging its bets, introducing BioPak compostable packaging for those not willing to put up with the $6 charge or the walk to return their container.

“Our online packaging store offers discounts to restaurants that use BioPak products. For customers that means when they’re finished eating they can just add it to their organic waste bin or their own compost bin,” Woo said.

That covers a wider range of items made from plant-based materials including napkins, cutlery, containers and cups. According to Deliveroo, 91% of customers already chose not to add disposable elements to their orders.

“Contamination caused by food residue can be problematic when it comes to recycling single-use foodservice packaging. Composting either at home or in an industrial composting facility offers a practical solution to divert food and packaging waste from landfill,” BioPak CEO Gary Smith said in a statement announcing the partnership.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.