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Reusable containers: A guide to reassure and encourage businesses and consumers

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The increase in use of single-use containers since the beginning of the pandemic has marred our collective efforts to reduce the amount of items that are thrown out. To demystify the issues and to reassure businesses and consumers alike that they can and should get back into their old reusable container habits, the Cooperative Incita has published a 2nd edition of the « Guide to best practices in food, health, and safety for the handling of containers and other reusable items », in collaboration with Équiterre, La vague, le Circuit Zéro déchet, l’Association québécoise Zéro Déchet, Montréal-Métropole en santé and Net Impact Montréal.

To ensure that all health issues were considered and addressed, the guide was reviewed by the Direction régionale de santé publique du CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.

It begins with an overview of what issues must be considered for reusable containers during a pandemic, as well the scientific understanding about the risks of contamination, followed by an extensive explanation of reusable container best practices for businesses and individuals.

Clear instructions tailored to different environments
The reality is different for grocery stores, restaurants, self-serve bulk stores and counter services, so the guide lays out specific procedures and best practices for each case. There is even a section on how to properly manage containers in a consignment system.

The guide also addresses the issues about compostable, recyclable and more generally single-use containers, to better inform and assist businesses in their choices.

There is no time to waste to get us collectively back on track to reduce at source!
The report mentions how we cannot ignore the unintended and long-term global health consequences of a return to plastics and other single-use items. Our planet can no longer sustain current production and consumption systems - the linear structure of extract, produce, consume, and throw away. We need to move more towards circular systems of reuse, repurpose and repair.

Thanks to the first edition of the guide, many businesses were able to confidently reinstate their reusable container practices. This updated 2nd edition must be widely distributed to encourage even more businesses to re-incorporate (or to adopt for the first time) reduction at the source practices with reusable containers.

Be part of the movement! Share this guide with your local grocery store or your favourite restaurant. Encourage them, explain to them why it is important to their customers. A great initiative that you can do to highlight the Semaine québécoise de réduction des déchets! Working together to reduce waste, we can make a big difference.