Information around safety and regulations on accepting BYO reusables from your customers.
What is 'reusable' food ware?
There is currently no strict guidance on what is considered reusable in Australia.
We believe that a reusable food ware item includes any food or drink receptacle that is made for, or capable of, multiple use, where such multiple use will not compromise the integrity of the product or make it unable to be washed via sanitary processes.
By contrast, a single-use product is typically intended to be used just once or for a short period of time before being disposed of.
What is the law on accepting reusable food ware?
Legally in Australia, food safety matters relating to packaging are contained in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code- Standard 3.2.2.
The Code requires food businesses when packaging food to:
only use packaging material that is fit for its intended use,
only use packaging material that is not likely to cause food contamination,
ensure food is protected from contamination during all stages,
not reuse single-use items (noting the code does not define a single-use item).
Therefore, accepting reusable cups and containers from customers is allowable under The Code, providing these are suitable for use and clean, and not designed for single use.
Will accepting reusables increase the risk of food contamination?
There is NO evidence of this. If a reusable container is clean, then it should be considered the same as a single-use item.
Can I be fined for accepting reusables?
No. There is currently no legislation or regulation in any state or territory in Australia that can be used to fine a business for accepting reusables.
Do I have to accept reusables?
No. A business can refuse reusables if they choose to, but equally a customer can choose to go to a business that does allow them. Increasingly customers are choosing to frequent businesses that are more reusable-friendly.
Do I need an onsite dishwasher to accept reusables?
No. Under the The Code Appendix 6: Cleaning and sanitising surfaces and utensils, a dishwasher is not required. Cleaning and sanitising can be done manually (e.g. using sinks), or using dishwashers or other specialised equipment.
Therefore, as long as there are appropriate sinks and food safe washing/sanitising substances available, then reuse is legally permitted.
Some local councils may have requirements around this before issuing food licenses however, so it would be worthwhile checking in with your local council.
Ways to mitigate risks and address your concerns
Get in touch with your local council and speak with the relevant food health and safety officer. They should be able to direct you to the legislation and ease your concerns.
Only accept clean reusables - this is a rule of thumb and cancels out issues surrounding potential contamination.
Only accept reusables that are genuinely ‘reusable’ - this way you can be sure that the material is made to be washed, withstand heat and hold food/drinks safely.
Sanitise BYO reusables in house - this can be done quickly and efficiently by having a vessel on hand with food grade sanitiser, whereby the reusable item is placed in the solution before receiving its food or beverage.
Encouraging BYO reusables with your customers
Your customers may have the same concerns as you, unsure whether reusables are Ok and if you accept them.
Let them know you support a culture of reusables and encourage them to bring their clean BYO cups and containers. You can do this through signage, media/social media promotions, and just chatting with them about it!
We have some great signage options you can download for free.