The firm has crafted a nifty dashboard, called Dish Track, that allows companies to quantify the environmental impact of using Re:Dish's services in real time. That data can be folded into companies' emissions reporting and toward sustainability goals.
"We want to encourage reuse in large institutions because the impact can be greater than the individual consumer or one restaurant," said Vanderlip. "So we are very focused on institutions and the education of the employees or students of that institution as to why it matters."
Waste that would typically be sent to a landfill is eliminated, and the carbon emitted and water that would have been used during the manufacturing process is saved. The system is also a greener alternative than compostable packaging, which in some cases requires more energy and water to manufacture than its plastic counterparts.
"All of the environmental impacts, from a carbon standpoint, are really happening before the packaging has ever even made it to a person to use in the first place," said Rich Grousset, vice president of sustainability at Re:Dish. He stressed that the energy used to manufacture single-use products is consistently higher than what it takes to pick up, wash and bring back containers. "And so trying to shift people's thinking to understand that is really important."
Toward that end, Re:Dish has sought to green every aspect possible of its operations. It optimizes its trucking routes, with the fleet traveling less than 15 miles per day. (A switch to electric vehicles is the goal but currently cost-prohibitive.) Equipment recirculates some of the water used in the cleaning process, and the firm hopes to eventually purify and reuse all the water used for on-site washing.
When reusable containers are damaged and need to be replaced, Re:Dish sends them back to the manufacturer, which grinds them down and repurposes the flakes into new dishware. The company also repurposes a plastic film the manufacturer uses in the shipping process by partnering with aNYbag, a local company that uses the material to create handbags.
"My experience has been that people will do the right thing when it's put in front of them," said Grousset. "That's what we're seeing play out in these institutional settings where we operate: If you just swap out the single-use products for the reusables, everyone uses it."