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Good News! Philadelphia has made it easier for restaurants and businesses to offer reusable containers to customers.
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Good News! Philadelphia has made it easier for restaurants and businesses to offer reusable containers to customers.

Tiffin’s reusable container program was shut down due to an arbitrary requirement from the city. Circular Philadelphia advocated for a change to this health department rule.

Reusable container programs are a huge step in a zero-waste world. Tiffin owner Munish Narula took that step with the Return 2 Tiffin program where reusable containers were offered to customers for take-out.

As Narula said, “By changing our own mindset about moving from disposable to reusable and creating a platform that makes it easy for our customers to participate, the impact will be far reaching and long lasting.”

But shortly after the start of the program, The Philadelphia Health Department shut it down due to a variance requirement that Narula wasn’t even aware of.

This requirement included filing for variance and paying a $225 fee.

Nic Esposito of Circular Philadelphia advocated for a change that would remove this requirement and make it easier for businesses and restaurants to participate in these low-waste efforts.

The Health Department has agreed to offer businesses an option to use food-grade containers within FDA guidelines that do not require filing for variance.

Dr. Palak Raval-Nelson, Director of the Health Department’s Environmental Health Services division said “By working with establishments, like in this case, we can ensure that not only are our restaurants safely operating, but also that they’re helping us attain our Zero Waste goals.”

Narula said, “We applaud the removal of such unnecessary restrictions on use of the containers which only created a barrier for other restaurants and businesses to do the same. This win also encourages us to develop a broader range of sustainable practices in our own business and help others to do the same.”

Now that there are no barriers, Philadelphia Office of Sustainability and Circular Philadelphia are trying to support other businesses in these zero waste efforts.

They will host a webinar on August 25th on how restaurants and food businesses can get involved in these pilot container programs.


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Sophia Healy is an editorial intern with Green Philly. She is a writer and environmentalist from South Philadelphia and a graduate of Temple University. She enjoys exploring the nature of Philly and discovering the many opportunities the city has to offer. View all posts by Sophia Healy

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