As part of the ReduceWasteTO Reducing Single-Use program, the City wants to recognize businesses taking a leadership role to reduce single-use and takeaway items. Tell us about your success stories and innovative business solutions.
Reducing single-use and takeaway items supports recommendations in the City’s Long Term Waste Management Strategy (Waste Strategy) and will help the City of Toronto become a zero waste and circular city.
Through Reducing Single-Use – one of a suite of ReduceWasteTO programs, the City wants to support and recognize businesses already taking a leadership role to eliminate the unnecessary use of single-use and takeaway items, such as:
  • Single-use accessory disposable food items (i.e. eating utensils, straws, stir sticks, condiment packets, napkins, and beverage takeout trays)
  • Single-use beverage cups (hot and cold)
  • Single-use shopping bags (paper and plastic)
  • Foam (expanded polystyrene) cups and takeout containers
  • Black plastic takeout containers
  • Plastic and plastic lined takeout containers and items labelled as compostable or bio-degradable.

The following information has been developed to help businesses transition away from single-use items and support their waste reduction efforts.

Is your business already eliminating the unnecessary use of single-use and takeaway items in your operations? Are you a service provider that has an innovative business solution or a service that is already helping businesses reduce single-use waste?

If so, we want to hear from you and celebrate your waste reduction leadership.

Complete the Reducing Single-Use Program Application today and demonstrate your commitment to be part of Toronto’s efforts to become a zero waste and circular city.

Eligible businesses who complete the application and accept the program Terms and Conditions will be added to the first edition of an online directory which will be available to customers. Businesses will also be able to connect with service providers to help them reduce waste.

The City may also use the information provided to showcase businesses as case studies on this web page.

Here are some practical tips to eliminate the unnecessary use of single-use and takeaway items in your business. Display these easy reference posters in your business for staff and customers to see, or use them on social media to encourage your customers to reduce waste.

Let’s choose to reduce single-use items 

Reduce single-use items in your business

Single-use accessory items (such as eating utensils, straws, stir sticks, condiment packets, napkins, and beverage takeout trays)

  • Adopt ‘Ask-First/By-Request’ practices in your operations where staff will first ask if they need an item, or wait for customers to request single-use accessory items before giving them out. For example:
    • Place these items behind the counter and provide them only if a customer asks for them
    • Make these items optional in your take-out orders, including online ordering and delivery apps
    • Use dispensers for these items to help ensure customers and staff take fewer items at one time

Single-use cups and containers

  • Accept reusable cups and containers provided by customers for any prepared foods or beverages, including leftovers from dine-in service. For Public Health guidance, review the Reusables: Public Health Regulations & Guidance for Food Premises section on this web page.
  • Allow customers to bring reusable beverage cups or takeout containers.
  • Encourage customers to bring their own reusables by advertising this option in-store, on your website, or on your social media accounts.
  • Use washable, reusable dishes and eating utensils to serve dine-in customers.
  • Use a reusable take-out container service.

Shopping bags (paper and plastic)

  • Accept reusable shopping bags or other containers provided by customers, including backpacks, closed-bottom tote boxes or bins.
  • Post in-store signage and social media content to encourage customers to bring their reusable bags and containers.
  • Offer incentives such as store discounts or credits to customers who bring their own reusable bags or containers.
  • Offer customers the option to use surplus cardboard boxes from store inventory orders.
  • Charge a fee for single-use shopping bags.
  • Do not provide single-use shopping bags.
  • Implement a bag, box, or container return program, which customers can use if they do not bring their own reusable bags or containers.

Foam (expanded polystyrene) takeout cups and containers & black plastic containers

  • Do not use foam and black plastic to takeout containers, as these are not accepted in the City’s Blue Bin Program. Instead use items that are accepted, such as:
    • Clear clamshell plastic containers
    • Plastic containers in colours other than black
    • Tin/aluminum containers or trays
    • Paper/cardboard containers, plates or cups without wax or plastic lining
  • Consider group buying options with similar businesses, or your local Business Improvement Area or restaurant association, to reduce costs.
  • Allow customers to provide their own containers for takeout.

Plastic and plastic-lined items labelled as compostable or bio-degradable

Get the facts on why it is important to reduce single-use and takeaway items.

  • Single-use accessory items (such as eating utensils, straws, stir sticks, condiment packets, napkins, and beverage takeout trays) are generally not recyclable or compostable, and are common litter items.
  • By reducing the distribution of single-use accessory items, businesses could reduce their overhead costs.
  • Single-use and takeaway items require valuable resources and energy to produce, collect, process and dispose of.
  • The federal government has proposed to ban the following single-use plastic items nationally:
    • bags
    • stir sticks
    • six-pack rings
    • eating utensils
    • straws
    • food service ware made from or containing problematic plastics, such as extruded or expanded polystyrene foam, polyvinyl chloride, oxo-degradable plastics, and black plastic containers
  • Foam containers can have serious impacts on the environment because they break down into little pieces that are easily ingested by fish and animals.
  • Foam containers are difficult and costly to recycle.
  • Black plastic cannot be sorted mechanically at the City’s recycling facility, so is not accepted in the Blue Bin Recycling Program and is sent to landfill.
  • Take-out containers that are soiled with food and other residue can contaminate otherwise clean recyclables, resulting in entire loads being sent to landfill.
  • Plastic items labelled as compostable and biodegradable, as well as plastic lined products, such as hot beverage cups, that are put in the Green Bin are screened out and end up in landfill. The Green Bin program was designed primarily to handle food waste as well as some fibre/paper products (like tissue and paper towel). It was not designed to process single-use items, products or packaging – even those labelled compostable or biodegradable. Learn more about what should go into your green bin.
  • Plastic items labelled as compostable and biodegradable are not recyclable, as they are made of materials that are meant to break down quickly as opposed to conventional plastics, which have a much longer lifespan and can be recycled into a new product. Once recyclables are collected and sorted, they are baled and sold to partially offset the operational costs. Plastic items labelled as compostable and biodegradable will lower the quality of the plastic bales making them less valuable and more difficult to sell.

Some businesses have expressed concerns about the handling and acceptance of re-useable materials in their operations. COVID-19 has also impacted the public’s perception of the safety of using re-useable materials.

The following resources are offered to support businesses in making decisions about accepting customer-provided containers or cups.

To ensure the health and safety of the community, food and beverage establishments that choose to adopt policies and practices to accept reusable containers or cups from their customers must continue to comply with the Ontario Food Premises Regulation which outlines all of the requirements regarding proper cleaning and sanitation.

Toronto Public Health provides guidance to food premises operators regarding their responsibility when handling reusable containers.

Information from Health Canada regarding the use of reusable bags and bins can be found on Canada’s Food Safety site.

More business supports to come

The Reducing Single-Use program will be phased in over the next few years to encourage, enable and celebrate businesses as part of Toronto’s transition to zero waste and a circular economy.

Check back regularly for additional resources.

Feedback and Updates

If you would like to provide your feedback on how to enhance the program and better support waste reduction efforts, please email wastestrategy@toronto.ca.

To receive updates about the City’s Single-Use & Takeaway Items Reduction Strategy, subscribe to the Long Term Waste Management Strategy email list.