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The Environmental Impact of Switching to Reusables

The Take-Makes-Waste Economy is Not Sustainable

In the face of climate change, the "take-make-waste" approach of the current linear economy is proving to be unsustainable. In the United States alone, an estimated one trillion single-use food service items are used each year, which are only in use for the duration of a meal or a coffee before contributing to 9 million tons of waste. According to the EPA, just a fraction of these items are recycled or composted, with the majority ending up in landfills, incineration plants, or polluting our natural environments.

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How Reuse With Re:Dish Wins

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The journey from raw material to disposable product is energy and resource-intensive, generating greenhouse gas emissions and harmful chemicals. In contrast, Re:Dish's reuse system – involving the delivery, collection, and washing of reusables – significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and water usage compared to the lifecycle of single-use products.

Measuring The Environmental Impact of Re:Dish Reusables

Re:Dish has conducted a comprehensive Lifecycle Analysis (LCA) to assess the environmental footprint of our reusable dishware against single-use alternatives. This analysis covers every stage, including material extraction and final disposal, and incorporates the energy and resources used in cleaning and transportation. Our LCA adheres to ISO 14040/14044 standards and utilizes certified tools like SUM'D UP Scorecard and Trayak's EcoImpact Compass for Packaging.

The Compounding Benefit of Reuse with Re:Dish

The most significant environmental impact of Re:Dish products occurs during the manufacturing stage due to their design for durability and longevity, which surpasses that of single-use items.

 

Despite this initial impact, the avoidance of continuously manufacturing new items means Re:Dish becomes environmentally advantageous to single-use after just a few uses:

  • Climate impact savings are realized after approximately 3-6 reuses.

  • Water savings become evident after approximately 15 reuses.

This pattern holds is seen across our entire range of products, not just the 9x9” Clamshells.

Cumulative Climate Impact Over Time
For 9x9 Re:Dish Clamshell Comparison

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Cumulative Water Footprint Over Time
For 9x9 Re:Dish Clamshell Comparison

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The Environmental Benefits of Re:Dishing Quickly Add Up

The impact a single institution can make by switching to Re:Dish is significant! For example, consider a company of 1,000 employees transitioning from single-use products to Re:Dish. Assuming each employee uses one cup and one clamshell daily over 260 workdays, the yearly impact is:

23,525 lbs of waste diverted from the waste stream.

That’s equivalent to:

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4,950 bags of waste avoided.

52,069 kg of CO22e was not emitted.

That’s equivalent to:

57,276 pounds of coal not burned.

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112,717 gallons of water saved.

That’s equivalent to:

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24,543 buckets of water not used.

Standard impact reporting compares Re:Dish containers and plates to similar volume sugarcane bagasse products and pleated cups to compostable paper cups with PLA liners and lids. These materials were selected based on what Re:Dish clients were most often using prior to partnering with Re:Dish.​

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Our Commitment to Sustainability Goes Beyond Our Service

At Re:Dish, we strive to make all aspects of our business as environmentally-friendly as possible. While we recognize that there is always room for improvement, here are some of the steps we are taking to ensure our business operates as sustainably as possible.

Our Products

Re:Dish products are made in the USA from FDA-approved food-grade polypropylene that is free from the harmful chemicals BPA and PFAS. NSF certification means they are designed with ease of washing in mind, which translates into less water and energy needed to achieve Re:Dish’s high standards of cleanliness.

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Ecolab has certified the products for up to 1,000 washes using commercial equipment, which speaks to their durability and ability to be used many times without needing replacement. When they do need to be replaced, Re:Dish products are ground into flakes and used to make new products, which reduces demand for virgin plastic material.

Waste

Re:Dish has adopted a zero waste plan for its operations and has set an ambitious goal to achieve TRUE Zero Waste certification in 2024. We conducted our first waste audit and began measuring our waste streams daily in 2021, the first year of operation. Since we began measuring, our total waste diversion from landfill/incineration has achieved over 90%. Here are some of the strategies we employ:​

  • Circularity is integrated into every step of our process. For example, we use reusable shipping totes to deliver our containers and reusable carts to collect them. This avoids secondary packing production and waste.  

  • We work with our suppliers to reduce or avoid packaging supplied to us.  This includes eliminating unnecessary packing (such as plastic sleeves or separators) when we receive new containers from our manufacturers, and using solid or bulk detergents and washing agents.

  • All food waste that is generated onsite or inadvertently transported to us from client sites is composted. While eliminating food waste at the source is clearly best, diverting this food waste from the landfill as the next best thing.

Climate Change

In 2022, Re:Dish partnered with students at Columbia University to conduct our first GHG inventory. It included Scope 1 emissions, primarily fuel use in our delivery and collection vehicles, and Scope 2 emissions, purchased electricity used in our warewashing facility. Several Scope 3 sources were also considered which had a relatively small impact including purchased goods and services, fuel and energy usage, upstream Transportation, and waste generated in operations.


Our relatively low electricity use is due to the very energy-efficient washing equipment that we use. To further enhance our sustainability practices, we are investigating ways to obtain renewable energy credits for the power used in our facilities.

 

As we expand, our focus is on refining our delivery and collection strategies to lessen both environmental and social impacts. We are also actively monitoring advancements in electric vehicle technology, looking forward to integrating electric delivery vehicles that align with our operational requirements.

Water

Our custom washing machinery is also very water efficient. For example it cascades the water used four times using clean water for the final rinse and recirculating the water upstream in the process where it can effectively be used to provide jet power and rinsing early in the process. 

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