Waste-Free Lifestyle: Reusable Takeout Containers

With a little forethought, and the convenient products now available, you can take an important step away from using disposables.

Whether you’re taking home leftovers from your restaurant meal or getting your favorite food as takeout, you can avoid using disposable containers.

Hundreds of millions of pounds of disposable takeout containers end up in landfills every year.  While some restaurants are making the crucial move away from Styrofoam and conventional plastic—offering compostable bio plastics and paper instead—these alternative products are currently very expensive and still represent an unnecessary waste of resources in their manufacture.

There are many non-toxic, durable and convenient reusable products on the market today that are designed to replace single-use takeout containers. The best choices are BPA-free, and also free of phthalates and lead.

If you drive a car, keep a few containers in the boot, along with your reusable grocery shopping bags.  Otherwise, you can leave them by your front door so you can easily remember to take them along when you head out to eat.

Reusable To Go Restaurant Containers


Collapsible bowls are convenient, reusable alternatives to single-use takeout containers. As the name suggests, they store flat, making them the easiest to bring with you. Each bowl expands to a sturdy, full-size container and collapses to around one-third its original size for easy transport and storage.

Collapsible Reusable Containers

Lock & Lock

The Lock & Lock reusable container sets feature airtight/waterproof silicone seals with a four-hinge locking system that prevents leakage and keeps your food fresh. Each set comes with three containers, which nest within one another to save space.

Locking Reusable Containers


Thermos Food Jar’s Thermax® vacuum insulation keeps your food or drink hot or cold for hours. Its simple, classic design is a basic tool for waste-free takeout. Perfect for soups, stews, curries and more. The double-wall vacuum insulation keeps contents cold for up to 7 hours or hot for up to 5 hours. The outer surface stays cool to touch when the contents are hot, and sweat-proof with cold contents

Reusable Containers For Liquids

Tiffin boxes

The tiffin box, a common lunchbox used in India, is an excellent way to keep your food neatly separated, and is easy to carry and clean. Made of stainless steel, tiffins are reusable, lightweight and have built in lids that double as plates. They are an elegant and functional example of how we can avoid plastic entirely.

Non Plastic Tiffin Takeout Containers

Bring your own cup

Next time you stop for a coffee or tea, consider that approximately 363 million pounds of disposable coffee cups end up in landfills every year in the United States alone.  Thankfully, you can easily opt out of using paper cups by bringing your own mug. This is a simple change that anyone can make without much effort or investment.

“I am not a paper cup” is a reusable porcelain cup with a silicone lid.  It’s double walled and dishwasher safe.  The Eco-Cup is another option, and is available in attractive patterns.

For cold drinks, consider the Eco Cold Drink Cup. It holds 16 ozs of your favorite iced beverage, has double-walled insulation that will keep your drink cooler longer and it comes with a reusable straw.

Reusable Mugs, Cups & Straws

Learn more about avoiding waste

Waste Free Home

Stop Wasting Food

Trash Is For Tossers!

How Restaurant Leftovers Can Feed The Poor

You’ll Also Enjoy Reading

Find out how to reprint this article in your newsletter, on your website or print publication

Looking for our disclosure in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”? You’ll find it on our Terms Of Use page

4 Responses to "Waste-Free Lifestyle: Reusable Takeout Containers"

  1. Lou  14 Dec at 01:21

    You don’t address the health department concerns

  2. Rich  28 Apr at 19:40

    Lou is right. FDA Food Code clearly prohibits a restaurant from serving food in a container brought into the establishment by a customer. The only exception is beverage containers. As far as I know, states typically adopt the pertinent code word for word. I believe one thing you can do, though, is bring your own container for leftovers and scrape the leftovers from the plate into your own container. Restaurants cannot do this for you. Anyway, by omitting this information, your article could be influencing people to violate regulations.

    • Publisher  05 May at 12:40

      Rich & Lou: Thanks for your comments. It’s an interesting point, however, I am not too concerned that we are influencing people to violate regulations. Diners, and consumers in general, have no knowledge of what FDA rules, or even local ordinances, govern such things as what can be done in a restaurant or not. Business owners are responsible for knowing and abiding by these regulations.

      In my own experience, I always put my leftovers into my reusable containers at the table myself. If you have the containers on hand, I don’t see any point in sending them back to the kitchen to be filled. It’s never been an issue.

      I do wonder why a restaurant is able to serve customers drinks in cups brought in by the customer, and not food. And at the grocery store, we can fill reusable sacks with bulk bin goods and somehow that’s not a threat to our health.

      Could a restaurant fill my reusable to-go cup with soup? Perhaps only a consommé, as it is purely a liquid? Please understand that I’m not mocking either of you at all. The point you have brought up is really important. There are rules. They are supposedly for our safety. For myself, I would rather the government actually make our food supply safer by removing GMOs, sub-theraputic use of antibiotics, toxic chemicals and hormones from agriculture. That seems a more worthy job to tackle than infantalizing the population by assuming we can’t be trusted to properly wash our own to-go containers.

  3. Rich  29 May at 17:07

    You are probably right to not worry about encouraging people to violate the code. Mainly it just struck me that the food code was relevant to your post and something that people also might be interested to know about.

    With regard to it being a restaurant’s responsibility to know the code, this sounds good in theory but practice is another thing. In my recent conversations with restaurant employees I came across several who were not familiar with the FDA code and who told me they serve people in consumer-provided takeout containers. One restaurant employee even told me that they had a written policy about reusable takeout containers in their marketing collateral, was somewhat alarmed when I described the food code, and subsequently planned to remove the written policy so as to not have such evidence of a policy in violation of the code. So there is definitely not 100% awareness out there.

    Additionally, I think it is interesting that you argue that people should be trusted to be responsible for properly washing their own containers but also insinuate that they shouldn’t be responsible for knowing the regulations regarding reusable takeout containers. I agree that the burden should be on restaurants in the case of current code, but if reuse is to become a legal practice, then people may need to be educated about what “properly cleaning” a container means.

    Unfortunately, while most people could be trusted to wash their own containers, there will always be some people who don’t do it properly or whose containers are accidentally contaminated after washing. It only takes incidents to get people up in arms that the government is not doing enough to protect us. And there is the question of adoption. If it was legal, how many people bring their own? Maybe not enough to cause concern.

    In general, though, I agree with you about priorities. I’m not sure how many contamination related sicknesses would occur if restaurants were allowed to serve food in any consumer-provided container. Is it enough to justify all of the externalities associated with single-use disposables? Also, as you alluded to, why are beverages container okay to refill and not soup? I understand the theory behind the code, but am not sure some of the distinctions are practical or enforceable. As you mention, getting all of the junk out of our food supply would seem to be a higher impact activity.

Comments are closed.