The COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on indoor dining have led to people’s kitchen cabinets bursting with single-use takeout containers. Over the past 20 months, people have been ordering in more than ever in ongoing support of struggling restaurants.
In reaction to this surge of single-use plastics destined to collect dust or journey to landfills, Toronto entrepreneur Catherine Marot founded CASE, a company dedicated to putting those containers back into circulation.
Marot came up with the idea because like many people, she was “pained” by the waste being caused by so many takeout containers circulating during the pandemic.
“I think people should care,” she said.
“All together, we can have a really big impact, and I think this goes to show that. It all started from just one container I wanted to save … with more people joining who had just thought before ‘Why should I care?’ it’s just going to continue getting even bigger.”
WATCH | Withrow Park Farmers’ Market partners with CASE:
Black plastics of any type are not accepted by Toronto’s recycling program.
Toronto.ca also cites that there is no “stable market for the volume of black plastic generated in Toronto,” but CASE is working to change that.
Takeout containers are cleaned, sorted and either sold back to restaurants or to a recycler who shreds them, melts them, and gives them new purpose as items like commercial black totes, according to Marot.
WATCH | Here’s why Toronto’s recycling program doesn’t accept some common items:
In only six months, CASE has saved over 60,000 containers from going to landfill by partnering with restaurants and community markets.
Chantal Stepa, market manager of the Withrow Park Farmer’s Market in East York that accepts donations for CASE’s program, said the community response has been incredible.
“I think a lot of people hold onto these containers because they’re rigid, strong, and they are reusable, but then you end up accumulating more than you’ll ever reuse yourself,” she said.
“So, when people see that we’re a collection spot they get really excited. I think people genuinely want to reduce waste; they’re just so inundated by it.”
Ilana Waldston lives near Withrow Park and has been bringing her containers to the CASE drop-off station after reading about the program in the market’s weekly newsletter.
“I saw that and went, ‘Wow, that’s exactly what we’ve been looking for,'” Waldston said.
“I’ve been trying to get rid of these things in some useful way other throwing them out and putting them in landfills for the entire pandemic.”
Marot has found Withrow Market to be an excellent partner for CASE.
“They showed me that the community really does care,” she said. “It’s really a relationship we’re building, I get to hear what it’s like for people dropping [containers] off. It’s friendly and I gain a lot from it.”