Restaurants reduce waste by delivering food in reusable containers

New Yorkers love their food delivery but along with all that takeout can come a lot of trash. One start-up thinks there's a better way: DeliverZero. It promises delivery with zero-waste.

"We wanted to give New Yorkers the same kind of experience they have with GrubHub," DeliverZero founder Adam Farbiarz said. "You go in, you find a restaurant, you find some food, you order it the only twist is it comes in this packaging."

The packaging is a durable BPA-free plastic that Farbiarz says be reused up to a thousand times before being recycled, can go in a commercial dishwasher, and is suitable for very hot liquids.

Farbiarz, who is an attorney, came up with the idea a year ago and brought the concept to life in November. So far, the site offers delivery from about 15 restaurants in the Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Williamsburg and Greenpoint sections of Brooklyn.

After a customer orders through DeliverZero, they have six weeks to return the packaging, either to a delivery person from any participating restaurant on the site or by dropping it off at the restaurant. If the containers aren't returned after that, the customer is charged $3.25 per package.

The restaurants clean the packaging before reusing it as they would say any plates or dishes they use in the restaurant.

Antonio Vilches is the co-owner of participating restaurant Mexicocina Agaveria in Prospect Heights. He said he has had no issue with customers returning the containers. He decided to sign on with the service to appeal to his customer base.

"They seem like they care," Vilches said, noting many customers who take leftovers to go ask to take it without a plastic bag. "The neighborhood... was looking for something to make a change in the environment."

Vilches said that so far it's been a success.

"We started with one delivery a week, now we do five, six deliveries a day," he said.

Like other delivery platforms, DeliverZero takes a cut of each order but Farbiarz said he ends up saving restaurants money.

"Every time they use one of these they don't have to buy a disposable," he said, displaying the packaging.

"The amount of waste that is produced from each order is kind of crazy," said Ariel Stein of Park Slope, who orders in regularly.

Stein, who learned of DeliverZero through word of mouth, said he enjoys the convenience of takeout with a bit of a cleaner conscience.

"More and more people are becoming aware of the concept of the environment and how we can take small steps to be sustainable," she said. "And this can make a big impact."

DeliverZero is adding new restaurants every week, Farbiarz said, with the goal of offering delivery from hundreds of restaurants across Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens in the next year.