By Alex Edwards
Special to The Daily Camera
Boulder has a goal of making 85% of its garbage or waste recyclable, and take-out food containers make up a large portion of that waste.
That’s what the repEATer app developed by two Boulder residents is seeking to change.
Chris Todd and Aushwin Ramdas have developed the app that seeks to reduce the amount of waste produced when ordering take-out. Instead of single- use plastics or similar containers, repEATer makes use of containers that can be used 2,000 times before they need to be disposed of.
“Before we got on the scene it was a handful of people who cared enough to bring their own reusable containers to the businesses,” Todd said.
However, with COVID-19 causing shutdowns, few businesses were willing to make use of customer-provided containers. Much of this was driven by fear that people could spread the virus via the containers, potentially putting further strain on restaurants.
Pre-pandemic, the food delivery industry was estimated to be about $82 billion a year, according to a Forbes article published in 2019. That figure was predicted to double by 2025.
“With that comes waste: single-use products, whether they are compostable, trash, or recyclable,” Todd said. “And we thought that that was a non-starter to get us to where we need to go as a people.”
The city of Boulder seems to agree with Todd and Ramdas. In 2015, Boulder adopted a zero-waste plan that would see the city move toward sustainable waste practices. This would include an overall goal to be 85% of the way to zero waste by 2025.
“We cannot recycle our way out of this problem,” said Jamie Harkins, a sustainability coordinator for the city of Boulder and the mayor of Lafayette. “We are learning that on a national scale very quickly.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, almost 45% of materials in our landfills right now come from food waste and the packaging used for it (though not necessarily take-out containers). It is a big enough number to cause some to take action.
With 2025 only 3½ years away, Boulder is only composting or recycling about 50% of its waste (as of 2019). Compare that to other cities such as San Francisco (80%) and Portland (70%) and finding that extra 35% seems unattainable. Harkins said it is important to note that cities measure these statistics differently. Furthermore, Boulder has begun redefining climate goals.
“We are right now examining how we move beyond just recycling and composting to more of a circular economy,” Harkins said. A circular economy is one that seeks to keep things in use for longer, thereby eliminating waste.
RepEATer is jumping in on the move toward a circularbased economy, with their stainless steel to-go boxes made from a minimum of 35% stainless steel. After their 2,000 uses, the boxes can be recycled with no value lost, Todd said.
As a lifelong member of the restaurant industry, Todd said he wants to leave a positive impact on a community that has been good to him.
“I’ve spent the better part of the last 21 years in the Boulder and Denver restaurant scene,” he said.
“I wanted to give back something positive, that could change the industry for the better.”
The app is available for free on Apple Store and Google Play.