Saturday, July 21, 2018
Business

Platos Table starts campaign to reduce food container waste using reusable plastic boxes

One of my biggest pet peeves about going to a restaurant is all the packaging that comes with ordering takeout or getting a doggy bag. I don't want a 12-inch box for one slice of pizza or a huge plastic foam container that I can't recycle.

So I really like the idea behind Platos Table. The St. Petersburg company has developed a reusable, plastic box to use at restaurants as an alternative to single-use containers. The boxes, which are BPA-free, microwaveable and dishwasher safe, come flat for storage and fold up with snaps.

Co-founders Sheree Graves and Lela Garnett started the company about two years ago to reduce the amount of containers and packaging that wind up in the trash. They developed the box, which has a patent pending, and recently started marketing them to restaurants and consumers.

"The amount of waste in packaging that we generate is phenomenal,'' Graves said. "I won't buy some things because of the amount of packaging. This is about changing people's behaviors.''

This week, coincidentally around Earth Day on Monday, the boxes go on sale at Rollin' Oats Market & Cafe in Tampa and St. Petersburg. They are also available online at reusers.com for $5-$8, depending on the size and style.

Company officials hope the boxes become as commonplace as the reusable bags shoppers bring to the grocery store to cut down on paper and plastic bags. They cite statistics showing containers and packaging make up 30 percent of all trash, much of it polystyrene foam that takes a gazillion years to decompose.

So far, more than a dozen restaurants in St. Petersburg have partnered with Platos Table to accept the boxes for leftovers and takeout orders. To encourage customer participation, each is offering an incentive, like a free drink or meal discount.

Ciccio's California Cuisine joined the program to help the environment while also reducing its packaging costs. Managing owner Patty Miles hopes it will be a hit among customers, especially regulars. Anyone who brings in a Platos box will receive a free soda.

"I think it's a great idea,'' she said. "Anything we can do to lessen our footprint is something we're interested in.''

Eventually, as more people become familiar with the boxes, Miles envisions customers keeping a box at Ciccio's with their name on it, similar to a reusable coffee or beer mug at a cafe or bar except that they take it home.

Restaurants could also buy their own inventory of boxes to circulate. Customers who bring in an empty box can swap them for a box full of food — a concept already in place at some college campuses, Graves said.

I see the boxes working best as doggy bags you fill up tableside. Takeout seems a bit trickier and takes some coordination. Platos Table recommends asking the kitchen to plate your food until you get there and can load it into your box. You could also have the restaurant wait to finish your order.

I suppose, like most things, if there's a will, there's a way. People used to forget to bring their bags to the grocery store. Now, for many of us, it's second nature.

Feeling green? Here are some other eco-friendly initiatives happening at local retailers in honor of Earth Day.

• Ikea in Tampa is celebrating a day early, on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with sidewalk chalk drawing, face painting and samples of organic coffee and chocolate. Friends from the Lowry Park Zoo will visit from noon to 2 p.m. and hold drawings for free zoo tickets. The store is also offering buy-one-get-one free LED bulbs to Ikea Family rewards members. In-store displays will highlight the store's sustainable products, solar panels and other green programs.

• Grow Financial federal credit union is giving away 12-inch Florida slash pine saplings at all of its branches on Earth Day. Limit five per household, while supplies last. Go to tampabay.com/letsgrowtogether.

• As part of its ongoing efforts to make "Earth Day every day,'' Evos restaurants are offering free organic milkshakes all day long. The cups, by the way, are biodegradable.

• Bring in five or more plastic bags to a Disney store on Monday and receive a free Brave or Cars 2 reusable tote, retail value $3.50. While supplies last.

• To sow some seeds of change, Pottery Barn Kids in Hyde Park Village is passing out free flower seeds on Earth Day.

Susan Thurston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3110.

Comments
At beach resorts, this bizarre sunscreen booth can mean business

At beach resorts, this bizarre sunscreen booth can mean business

Nothing will ruin your beach vacation faster than a sunburn.Get scorched, and suddenly everything that was meant to be fun isn’t: Massages at the spa hurt, day-drinking by the pool hurts, getting on jet skis hurts. Listening to your skincare-obsessed...
Updated: 8 hours ago
He was fired after an encounter with a ‘racist’ customer. After sharing his story, Home Depot changed its mind.

He was fired after an encounter with a ‘racist’ customer. After sharing his story, Home Depot changed its mind.

After a man last Thursday approached the checkout at a Home Depot in Albany, New York, staff member Maurice Rucker asked him to leash his dog. That’s when the man exploded.Rucker, a 60-year-old black man, claimed he was fired Tuesday after defending ...
Published: 07/21/18
Open office plans are as bad as you thought

Open office plans are as bad as you thought

A cubicle-free workplace without private offices is supposed to force employees to collaborate. To have them talk more face-to-face. To get them off instant messenger and spontaneously brainstroming about new ideas.But a recent study by two researche...
Published: 07/21/18
Rays 2020 brings ‘road show’ to Sun City Center Chamber

Rays 2020 brings ‘road show’ to Sun City Center Chamber

SUN CITY CENTER — Business leaders and volunteers determined to help the Rays baseball team find a new stadium home in Ybor City are willing to go to every corner of Tampa Bay to raise awareness and support.Including Sun City Center.Tampa Bay Rays 20...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Officials speak out against demolition plans for historic Jordan Park section

Officials speak out against demolition plans for historic Jordan Park section

ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas County School board chair Rene Flowers was fired up Friday. She talked about growing up in Jordan Park, the city’s first public housing project and a sentimental and historic marker of St. Petersburg’s African-American commu...
Published: 07/20/18
Florida is still paying SunPass contractor, even after officials said they would stop

Florida is still paying SunPass contractor, even after officials said they would stop

Florida has not stopped paying the SunPass contractor responsible for the tolling system’s outage, even after transportation officials said the state would suspend all payments.In a letter on Monday, FDOT secretary Mike Dew said the state would not p...
Published: 07/20/18
Florida among the top 3 states with the most income inequality

Florida among the top 3 states with the most income inequality

Florida is one of three states in the nation with the biggest income gap between the very rich and everyone else.In 2015, a family in the top 1 percent nationally had an average income of more than $1.3 million — or 26.3 times as much as the $50,107 ...
Published: 07/20/18
Tampa International Airport ranked in top 10 for defense against cyber threats

Tampa International Airport ranked in top 10 for defense against cyber threats

TAMPA — Tampa International Airport was ranked this week as the 10th safest U.S. airport to go online without being hacked, but the ranking is not only about the place, but also about how savvy its travelers are.The data security firm Coronet ranked ...
Published: 07/20/18
When suicide threats come calling: ‘I try to make a connection.’

When suicide threats come calling: ‘I try to make a connection.’

TAMPA — At first glance, it’s a typical office with more than a dozen cubicles under florescent lights. The operators wear headsets and stare into computer screens, some tinkering with handheld toys, others browsing Facebook or chatting with colleagu...
Published: 07/20/18

State record of $321 million in unclaimed property back to residents and businesses

More than $321 million was returned to Florida residents and businesses from the state’s unclaimed property in the past fiscal year.Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis took office in July 2017 and said this year’s total broke last year’s rec...
Published: 07/20/18