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Zero Waste Takeout: Tiffin rolls out new reusable container program
Business

Zero Waste Takeout: Tiffin rolls out new reusable container program

The Indian restaurant has been serving up food in reusable packaging since March, and the results have been amazing. 

If you love Indian takeout and fighting single-use plastic, it’s your lucky day. 

Tiffin, a popular Indian restaurant with ten locations across the Philadelphia area, introduced its new reusable takeout containers on March 22nd. Dubbed “Return 2 Tiffin”, their new program aims to reduce single-use plastic waste by giving customers the option to save the containers and return them to the store. Tiffin is the first restaurant in Philadelphia to implement such a program.  

The timing couldn’t have been better. The US generated over 14.5 million tons of plastic packaging waste in 2018, according to the EPA. As the pandemic increased the demand for takeout and delivery, it’s easy to see just how much plastic accumulates in our homes, recycling bins, and trash cans. 

A new approach to food delivery  

Owner Munish Narula says he’s been hoping to incorporate reusable containers into their model for years. It’s even in the name: a “tiffin box” is a metal lunch box (the word ‘tiffin’ can also mean ‘lunch’) which is used in India for meals on the go. “We tried more than eight or nine years ago to actually use a real stainless-steel tiffin, but the price was prohibitive,” says Narula. “So finally, we came across these containers that I thought were perfect for this program. Our technology has evolved enough for us to be able to let people order online and choose the option for getting the reusable containers.” 

An alternative to single-use plastics 

Photo courtesy of Tiffin Restaurant

The containers, which come with a scannable QR code for tracking purposes, are exclusively available through online orders and can be delivered or picked up from the restaurant. Once customers are finished with their meal, they have up to 6 weeks to wash and return them. If the container is not returned within 6 weeks, the customer will be fined for the cost of the container. After returning to the restaurant, the containers are washed and sanitized for the next customer.  

While Tiffin’s new containers are still made of plastic, they can last for up to 1000 uses — that’s much longer than your standard flimsy plastic or Styrofoam takeout containers. Tiffin will continue to offer single-use containers for customers who prefer them, but the new program provides a great alternative option that helps cut down on waste. 

Happy customers, happier planet 

Though the program is in its infancy, it has already become a resounding success. Narula says customers are requesting and returning containers faster than expected, and he is purchasing more containers to help his restaurants keep up with demand — he estimates that close to 4000 containers are currently in circulation. “I am amazed at the response… it has blown me away how many people are participating.” 

The containers currently come in three sizes, but Narula is hoping to introduce more sizes so that every part of the meal can be contained in reusable packaging. Soon, chutneys will be delivered in glass cups, and meals will be placed in reusable tote bags. The restaurants will also be retiring the last of their Styrofoam packaging.  

Narula also hopes to find a way to make tracking the containers easier so that customers can order them over the phone.  

How to “Return 2 Tiffin” 

If you want to receive your next meal in a reusable container, place your order through Tiffin’s online ordering system. Once you’re finished with your food, wash and bring it back to the restaurant or hand it off to the delivery driver within six weeks. 

Cover photo courtesy of Tiffin Restaurant

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Sophie Brous
Sophie Brous is an editorial intern at Green Philly. Born and raised in NYC, she now attends Haverford College, where she majors in linguistics. When she's not writing, she can be found exploring cities, making arts and crafts, and finding ways to live a greener lifestyle. View all posts by Sophie Brous

1 thought on “Zero Waste Takeout: Tiffin rolls out new reusable container program

  1. This is so awesome! Wasteful packaging is big reason I avoid takeout – but this could get me on board for some Tiffin for sure!

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