BYO 101 for Businesses

Why allow BYO?

Safe and legal

Allowing customers to bring their own containers to fill with food is safe and in California, legal.

Saves money

With food packaging costs skyrocketing, you’ll save money on disposable containers. These typical to-go containers cost 25 cents each. That really adds up!


Not only does plastic shed microplastics that we consume, it also contains toxins that can leach into food, especially hot food. Food stored in glass or metal containers does not contain these contaminants. 

Attracts environmentally conscious customers

Customers who want to BYO usually do so because they want to reduce the amount of plastic pollution entering the environment—and they tend to be a passionate and loyal bunch!

Part of the solution

Plastic pollutes the environment all along it’s lifecycle, from extraction of the planet-heating fossil fuels that produce it, the shipping and refining of those raw materials, to the manufacture of plastic and its disposal—often in landfill, an incinerator or our landscapes and oceans, where it decimates wildlife. We all can play a role in stopping this unnecessary destruction.

Train your staff

Cover the following:

Why you will allow BYO containers

You may want to save money, cater to customers’ requests, reduce plastic pollution or all of the above!

How to tare jars

For bulk stores and refill shops, develop step-by-step instructions for marking the tares (the weights) on jars and deducting that tare from the weight of the jar plus its contents. This way the customer pays only for the contents of the jar. Print these instructions and post them at each cash register and, if you have one, at the customer service counter.

How to fill BYO cups and thermoses with beverages

You may decide to set up a designated area to handle BYO orders (but it’s not necessary). To fill orders, choose one of the following methods:

  1. After the customer hands the staff member a cup or thermos, the staff member fills the container with a beverage.
  2. The customer places a cup or thermos on a tray, the staff member fills the cup or thermos without coming into contact with it and the customer removes the drink from the tray. 

How to fill takeout orders in BYO containers

Again, you may want to set up a designated area to handle BYO containers. Typically, restaurants that allow BYO will fill orders in one of the following ways:

  1. Fill the customer’s containers directly.
  2. Slide a tray to the customer which contains their plated order and utensils. The customer then transfers the food to their containers. Using this method, the employees do not touch the customer’s takeout containers. 

How to zero out scales

At deli, cheese, meat and fish counters, develop step-by-step instructions for filling BYO containers. Typically, stores follow one of two methods:

  1. A staff member sets the scale to zero they place a customer’s container on it. They then fill the container with the customer’s order and print off a sticker that shows the price.
  2. A staff member places a sheet of parchment or plastic on the scale, places the order on top   of it, picks it up and places the minimal packaging and food in the container. This does waste single-use materials but it wastes much less material than typical deli, meat or fish counter packaging. 

Want to allow BYO containers in your business? Join us!

We need all hands on deck. Your help in addressing the plastic waste crisis makes a difference! 

We’ll give you one or our BYO stickers to display at your door to let customers know you allow them to bring their own containers when they order or shop. We’ll add you to our list of participating businesses on our website and promote your waste-reduction efforts on our social media platforms. 

Please let us know if you have stipulations you’d like us to add to our website—BYO allowed for drinks only, no phone orders for BYO, contactless fulfillment only and so on. Email us here to join our free program. And go here to see which businesses have already joined.

During the pandemic, takeout has increased in the US by 78 percent according to Upstream. Single-use trash accompanied almost all of those takeout orders. We need policies to stop this. Grassroots efforts and citizens demanding change will bring about those policies faster. All approaches are necessary and welcome.