ForeverWare is on a Mission to Reduce Restaurant Waste
Is sustainability good for business? The team behind Minneapolis-based Forever Ware believes so, and it’s preaching the perks of reusable takeout containers to businesses in the Twin Cities and beyond.
Led by software engineers Nolan Singroy and Natasha Gaffer, Forever Ware sells reusable cups and food containers to coffee shops and restaurants. Singroy launched an early iteration of the company back in 2020 after seeing loads of disposable plastic containers washed up on the shores of Guyana while visiting a sick relative.
Forever Ware works like this: Customers pay a refundable $5 deposit for a stainless steel cup or container when they place an order. When they’re finished, customers scan the product and return it to a participating restaurant. Each product is tracked digitally, so customers get their money back when they return it or they can use the proceeds for their next purchase. Customers don’t need to bring their containers to the same restaurant; Forever Ware’s technology enables them to return the product to any other participating establishment. Gaffer likens the model to checking out a book at a library.
“Our distributed asset tracking network is what makes that possible,” says Gaffer, the company’s CEO and co-founder. “All the customers go into one database, and they can use those products at any business in the network.”
So far, Forever Ware has shipped its starter kit to 18 establishments in Minneapolis, Chicago, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire. Orders are ramping up.
For Gaffer and Singroy, Forever Ware’s co-founder and chief hardware officer, the imperative to adopt reusable products is as much financial as it is environmental. Yes, reusable takeout containers would undoubtedly reduce thousands of tons of waste, but they could also save business owners money, Gaffer says. She relates the story of Spoken Cafe in Chicago, which opted to replace all of its cups with Forever Ware. The owner of that business expects to save about $9,000 a year on cups, she says.
To be sure, Forever Ware isn’t the only company betting on reusable takeout containers. But Singroy says his company differentiates itself from competitors by making it easier for customers to use its products. Consumers don’t need to install a separate app to use Forever Ware, for instance.
In Minnesota, businesses will soon have to adopt some big changes in the wake of new legislation. In June, Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill that bans the use of PFAS—aka “forever chemicals”—in several types of food packaging starting Jan. 1, 2024. “That will force businesses to look for alternative solutions,” Singroy says. And regardless, many customers may have already started looking into other options.
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“Covid came and supercharged people’s takeout habits,” Gaffer says, “but also their awareness of the trash it leaves behind.”