How do you decide where to order your take-out or delivery meal? Definitely, you want delicious food. And for some people, reducing waste is also an important consideration. These sustainability-focused folks factor in how the restaurant packages their meal. Does the restaurant package food in single-use plastic or Styrofoam? Do they automatically toss in excess extras, such as dressing packets, plastic utensils, and plastic straws?
To help diners reduce waste, these two free apps help you find and support restaurants that are making planet-friendlier packaging choices. While the apps’ databases likely are limited, the companies are eager to expand their listings of eateries and regions. They welcome participation from diners and restaurant owners.
PlasticScore rates restaurants by ranking them with one to five turtles. Restaurants with a score of five turtles score the highest with zero single-use items. High-ranking restaurants might also loan out reusable bowls and utensils. Or they might allow diners to supply their own take-out packaging from home.
“Our rating is based on reviews of dine-in and takeout experiences by our users,” the PlasticScore website states. “Our users are guided through a series of questions such as how many single-use items they received, what are the items made of, and whether they had the option to compost or recycle. From there, we calculate a score based on these answers …”
In addition to ranking restaurants for users’ dining decisions, the app also aims to encourage other restaurants to use sustainable packaging. “The transparency from our turtle-powered rating creates healthy competition between restaurants to reduce waste, and we use the data from your reviews to give them targeted recommendations for how to improve,” the PlasticScore website states.
Restaurants can volunteer to participate. They’ll receive tips for elevating their sustainable practices.
“We’ve also just released our restaurant dashboard, where restaurants can self-report their own practices and get resources for how to improve their score,” says Mladen Gajic, co-founder and CEO of PlasticScore.
Jybe features a Q&A platform for users, which provides information for ranking restaurants within specific regional zones. Regions include Greater Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Portland, Seattle, Denver and Boulder, Austin, and New York City.
“Each rating submitted by diners is then assessed and validated by the Jybe team. The more reviews we collect on a restaurant, the more accurate and helpful they can be to others,” says Alison Diamond, co-founder and CEO of Jybe.
“We actually go into quite a bit of detail. Our algorithm takes into account the amount of plastic used, if utensils were included and/or requested, and finally if there was any Styrofoam used or materials that require the use of an industrial compost facility to break down. We require a picture of the packaging so that a member of our team can verify reviews as well.”
“Tags are then added to the restaurant page within the app further explaining the score and defining words and phrases that might not be familiar to all,” Diamond says. “Our goal is not only eliminating the use of single-use plastic used by restaurants but also to educate users in hopes they can make more informed decisions in other facets of their lives.”
Diamond says Jybe hopes to launch in other regions. “We look forward to being a whole lot more popular, of course, but have been very moved and motivated by the number of people who not only use Jybe but who also wanted to be a part of the solution.”
Tips for Take-Out
Patronizing restaurants with sustainable packaging is laudable. Take it a step further and talk with restaurateurs and let them know you appreciate their sustainable packaging choices. If a restaurant has wasteful packaging practices, let them know your preferences. It may help them make the change to lower-waste and zero-waste practices.
“We suggest customers always ask if a restaurant will accept personal reusables. If not, ask that they wrap your meal in as little packaging as possible,” says Alison Diamond of Jybe. “Restaurants listen to their customers and if you make it clear you are unhappy with their use of unsustainable packaging, that might be just what they need to change their ways.”
When you order take-out:
- Ask if you can have your food placed in your reusable container.
- If the business can’t accommodate reusable containers, request the least wasteful packaging, such as recyclable or biodegradable items like Kraft paper boxes.
- Make it clear that you don’t want any disposable utensils or straws.
- Request dressings mixed into the dish, rather than on the side.
PlasticScore CEO Mladen Gajic recommends, “Reusables are always the best option, so ask the restaurant if you can use your own container or cup. Even if the restaurant doesn’t allow it for now, more people asking will start to normalize the practice.” He also suggests, “Share a link to our business resources with them so they have guidance on how to implement a BYO program.”
Originally published on July 13, 2021, this article was updated in July 2022.