Del Mar, Encinitas restaurants join program to promote reusable takeout containers

A program
A program provides restaurants and customers with reusable containers to replace single-use plastics and other disposable items usually included in a to-go order.

The founder of a new zero-waste takeout program wants to help reduce plastic waste and save money for restaurants, which typically have to pack to-go orders with single-use plastic wrappers, utensils and other items.

Brain Macdonald, who lives in Bird Rock, launched the program, called the M’Porte Exchange Program, about one year ago. It includes a group of North County restaurants in Del Mar and Encinitas, with plans to expand throughout the region.

“I just figured that there’s really got to be a better way to do this, and started researching and found out about the local laws, as far as no styrofoam,” Macdonald said.

Laws have become increasingly restrictive when it comes to single-use plastics, forcing restaurants and other businesses to change long-standing business practices. Single-use plastic straws, for example, are slowly being eliminated throughout the state.

“Plastic pollution with to-go waste is such a big issue that I wanted to do something about it and this is where I landed,” Macdonald said.

Customers can participate in the program by purchasing a container from M’Porte, or from one of the participating restaurants. When they place an order with one of the restaurants, the containers can be swapped with other reusable containers that the restaurants keep cleaned and sanitized. The customer can rinse the container before bringing it back to a participating restaurant and exchanging it for another container with a new order.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health restrictions, restaurants have been limited to serving takeout only. Macdonald said M’Porte provides a way to avoid all the single-use plastics that would normally be included in each takeout order.

Macdonald added that he wants to expand the program throughout more of San Diego and potentially across the country. He said his business model has less overhead in part because the restaurants clean the containers, as opposed to similar companies that clean the containers themselves.

“The beauty of this program is that it’s the most scalable solution to zero-waste takeout in the nation,” Macdonald said.

He also said the program has been well-received by the restaurants that have joined so far. Charles Koll, owner of Viewpoint Brewing Co., which is one of the participating restaurants, said the program helps “provide our guests with delicious meals in reusable containers all while saving money and the environment.”

“People are excited about it,” Macdonald said. “Once the lightbulb goes on and once they see they can make a difference by doing this, it’s a game-changer.”

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