bring your own container toronto

Hundreds of restaurants in Toronto now let you bring your own takeout containers

A neighbourhood initiative called Roncy Reduces — created to help the Roncesvalles Village cut down on waste — launched just over one year ago and has since been picked up all over the city

What began as a project in a single neighbourhood has become the Toronto Reduces Group Network, and 262 stores and takeout restaurants in Toronto now let customers bring their own containers thanks to the initiative. 

The groups get local businesses to join the program by encouraging them to display a "Bring Your Own" (BYO) sticker indicating that they allow people to bring their own containers, carry zero-waste tools and supplies, or have another waste reduction initiative. 

There are currently 14 active local waste reduction groups covering 29 neighbourhoods across Toronto, and seven more are in the works including in Etobicoke and North York. Eventually, there will be 21 groups covering 37 neighbourhoods.

Tina Soldovieri is the founder of Roncy Reduces, the first of the neighbourhood waste reduction groups in the city. She says she never imagined it would grow the way it has. 

"I did not expect that it was a model that would be so interesting for people... but you can see that local works well," she said. "If you try to change all of Toronto at once, you wouldn’t be able to see it. But if you do it in your own neighbourhood, you can."

Soldovieri said she started the initiative to make it easier to cut down on her own personal waste while also helping members of her neighbourhood do the same. 

"The important step is to say goodbye to single-use," she said. 

And judging by the fact that hundreds of businesses now display some version of the original Roncy Reduces BYO sticker, it seems that step is slowly but surely being taken. 

Still, Soldovieri says it's difficult to judge how much the option is actually being used by customers.

"Business owners tell me that more and more people come with their own containers," she said.

"Whenever I go somewhere, I ask if they think it's spreading and they usually say yes they have more people coming in, but they don’t say it's crazy," she continued.

"The interest is huge and the use and the application is probably slow. It’s a big change for people but there’s definitely a lot of interest."

Soldovieri said she thinks people have made major changes when it comes to using plastic bags, plastic straws and plastic water bottles, and bringing their own reusable containers to a store or restaurant is the inevitable next step.

"My hope is that we can keep it going until we also see a significant change in behaviour," she said. "It's really hard to see and to measure, but there’s so much room for improvement still."

Up next, Roncy Reduces is set to have a streetcar shelter poster up in Roncesvalles for all of March to help get the word out as well as a slider at the Revue Cinema, all paid for by the neighbourhood BIA

The group will also have a table set up at the upcoming Polish festival, where they'll provide a return and deposit plate and cup service as well as a green bin for compost. Soldovieri said the goal is to save 10,000 cups and plates from landfill during the festival. 

She also said she's heartened by the other sustainability initiatives popping up throughout the city such as Wisebox, a new city-wide reusable restaurant takeout container program

"It’s a process. It’s spreading awareness but also encouraging people to actually do it," Soldovieri said.

"We need to think about what we all leave behind on this planet for nature to digest."

Lead photo by

Jesse Milns at Cinco

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