Benton To Go reusable container program launches at nine local restaurants


Alex Ozeran

Chef J.D. Monroe (left) with owner Waylon Pickett (right) displaying the Benton To Go box in front of Old World Deli.

Haley Stark, News Contributor

Partially inspired by Oregon State University’s Eco2Go program, Benton To Go’s new green reusable takeout boxes have arrived in select Corvallis and Philomath restaurants.

Available for a one-time $7 purchase at any of the locations listed on the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition website, the program seeks to eliminate the waste of one-use takeout containers with a reusable option.

Each container is made of recycled Bisphenol A-free plastic processed locally at Albany’s Atacama Manufacturing. Any damaged containers will be shipped back to Atacama and melted back down into new ones.

According to CSC Sustainability Outreach Specialist Jeanette Hardison, the steps to using the containers can be summed up by a simple mantra: “takeout, rinse, return.” 

After purchasing the container, typically in addition to a takeout meal, customers can then wash them out and bring them back to any of the participating restaurants. Here, they will be sterilized and the customer can receive another container or a voucher to receive one in the future.

“So the options are, bring a container, get a container, bring a container, get a voucher, or bring a voucher and get a container;” Hardison said. “It’s just a circular economy, you can have one or the other.”

Launching Benton To Go has been a largely collaborative process. The idea initially came from Sally Starker, the owner of Ants on a Log Cafe. Her restaurant already implemented a similar system with reusable glass bottles and jars for smoothies and food, so expanding the program within the community was a logical next step.

“We started just in our own cafe doing that, but I really wanted to reach broader than that and to get the community and other restaurants involved and provide something that was easy for our customers to use, and a way to really educate as well,” Starker said.

Many organizations and individuals worked together to make Benton To Go a reality.

OSU University Housing and Dining Service’s Eco2Go and similar programs across Oregon were starting points for the design and implementation of the containers. UHDS General Manager Chris Anderson, who started the Eco2Go program, was credited by Starker as being one of the main sources of guidance for Benton To Go.

Local environmental organizations were another big contributor to the program. Starker started off by talking with Jennifer Brown at the Corvallis Environmental Center before eventually collaborating with Hardison and Annette Mills at CSC and Emily Daniel at First Alternative Co-op.

The first committee meeting for Benton To Go was held last November, including the groups mentioned above along with the Benton County Health Department. Benton To Go received funding from a variety of local donors, including grants from Benton County, Republic Services and Corvallis Odd Fellows.

Aug. 15 marked the launch of Benton To Go. For Old World Deli’s head chef J.D. Monroe and owner Waylon Pickett, the program has already been a success. 

“We sold 15 of them in the first week. One woman came in and bought ten of them,” Monroe said. “So she just went and walked around to everyone who was in here and gave them one.”

While the initial reception has been positive, the restaurant does have one major wish for the program in the future.

“One thing we’ve discussed is there’s only one size. So it’s a little hard to smush our sandwiches into them, so we’re hoping that if it catches on, there will become different sizes for different to-go orders,” Pickett said.

Starker also shared the wish to have a more diverse range of container sizes, and Hardison said that Benton To Go plans to take these requests into consideration over the next year as part of the program’s expansion efforts.

“It is a pilot program,” Hardison said. “If there are any other concerns that come up, we will retool and tailor it as we go, and then figure it out.”

Email inquiries from other restaurants seeking to join Benton To Go indicate to Hardison that the program will continue to grow.

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