Thanks to the support and generosity of hundreds of you, BizeeBox lives to see another day! We are incredibly thankful to everyone who contributed and made a statement that it's time to take the waste out of takeout. You rock!!
News Flash: BizeeBox Featured in Fast Company & Beyond!
That's right! Thanks to all of your contributions, sharing, and caring, the word is getting out about BizeeBox. Fast Company and Grist ran great pieces on BizeeBox last week. One Green Planet and PSFK published great stories this week, and Elevatr featured Phel and Rich in their Entrepreneur of the Week column! And don't forget to check out Rich's blog post in EDF Business and Phel's How-To in Shareable.
We definitely recommended taking a read-through and sharing the good news!
Help Create a Less Wasteful Future: Take the Waste Out of Takeout!
We are on a
quest to make the world a better, cleaner, less wasteful place, and we’re
starting with takeout containers. BizeeBoxTM drastically reduces the
need for disposable takeout containers by offering the easiest-to-use, most
technologically advanced reusable takeout container service in the United
What is a “reusable takeout container service,” you ask? Well, after you sign up for BizeeBox for free, it basically works like this:
- You ask for a BizeeBox container when you order takeout food or take leftovers home from a restaurant
- You check out the container (just like you would a library book) using our super-cool smartphone application
- You enjoy your food when and where you want, then return the container to one of BizeeBox’s convenient drop-off locations
- BizeeBox collects used containers from the drop-off locations, checks them in for you, cleans and sanitizes so they are good as new, and redistributes clean containers to restaurants to start the cycle again!
The only differences between our model and the disposable takeout container model are that you have to check out and return the containers. Our technology will make the check out process simple. And returning containers will become easier and easier as we sign up restaurants and add return locations. Our grand vision is that eventually you’ll be able to return our containers on every city street corner and every restaurant, grocery store, office building, airport, mall, and other food service establishment in the country. Imagine getting takeout at the airport, bringing it on the plane, and returning it to the flight attendant!
BizeeBox uses sturdy, dishwasher-safe, microwave-safe, and BPA-free plastic containers. That means they are also great for storing and reheating leftovers. You can also use them to bring lunch to work or school, just like any regular lunchbox. You can even check out as many containers as you like.
All we ask is that you return each container to us in good condition within 30 days of checking it out. After that, we have to charge you a replacement fee because, well, these awesome containers are expensive and we can’t just give them away for free!
Why is takeout container waste such a big issue?
All takeout containers require materials, energy, and water to manufacture and are usually transported a long distance before they end up at a restaurant. And then, after being used only once, most end up in landfills or, even worse, polluting local ecosystems and clogging waterways. This is even true for recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable containers (see our FAQ below or check out our blog for more on this). Meanwhile, taxpayers bear the economic burdens of waste management, litter cleanup, and repairing damaged ecosystems.
So not only are there environmental benefits to reducing the use of disposable takeout containers, but the more containers we keep out of the waste stream and our environment, the more tax dollars will be freed up for other purposes. Even better, we’ll create a few local jobs because we’ll need people to collect, clean, and redistribute takeout containers.
How big of a difference can we make?
We are starting BizeeBox in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a college town with approximately 300 restaurants serving a population of 115,000. By our estimates, Ann Arbor restaurants serve at least 2 million disposable takeout containers per year.
Since each takeout container we offer can be reused over 350 times before it needs to be recycled, BizeeBox can meet Ann Arbor’s needs with less than 1% of the containers. That’s 10,000 BizeeBox containers rather than 2 million disposable containers! To put this in perspective …
- By weight: This is the same as keeping more than 100 tons out of the waste stream per year.
- By volume: If you don’t crush them, that many containers would fill approximately 700 average dump trucks.
- By height: If you stacked 2 million standard clamshell containers one on top of the other, you’d have a tower nearly 100 miles tall.
And that’s just Ann Arbor! Nationally it works out to something like 18 million reusable containers instead of 5 billion disposable containers. It’s an understatement to say that’s a lot of containers we could keep out of the waste stream and our environment. Doesn’t this sound like a win, win, win scenario?
Who are we, and why are we doing this?
We are Rich Grousset (bald) and Phel Meyer (bearded), and we are BizeeBox. We met in graduate school and immediately bonded over our shared distaste for waste (i.e. we don’t like trash).
We also had a few other things in common, including our passions for food and ordering takeout from local restaurants. The more we talked, though, the more we became frustrated by the number of takeout containers we were throwing away after only one use. So we started asking ourselves: does this make sense? Is it really necessary?
That’s how we started thinking about and researching takeout container waste. We learned that hundreds of U.S. colleges have begun addressing the issue by implementing reusable takeout container programs, and there are even a few small businesses out there doing it as well. But we also found that nobody was addressing the issue on a large scale. We saw an opportunity to step in and make a difference.
To be certain this all wasn’t just a fluke, we launched the University of Michigan’s very first reusable takeout container program. What happened? It was a huge success, and after just a few weeks, about half of the restaurant’s to-go diners were using our containers every day! What’s more, we got a ton of positive feedback from faculty, staff, and students.
We were thrilled to discover that we’re not the only ones tired of creating unnecessary waste and that people are willing to embrace reuse if given the opportunity. But now someone needs to take the initiative to develop a financially viable reusable takeout container service that can expand to every city in the country. We want to be that someone and could not be more excited by the opportunity to launch a business that aligns perfectly with our values. Help us be that someone … Help us take the waste out of takeout!
What do we need?
We are seeking $30,000, which will allow us to launch a small-scale operation in Ann Arbor. To do that, we need:
- Containers (~$7,000): We need to purchase 1500 containers, which is enough to get us started at the first few restaurants.
- Collection Boxes (~$3,000): We need to buy and brand our very own bins people can use to return the containers. We’ll buy 6, put one in or near each participating restaurant, and add a few additional ones in prime locations around town.
- Operations (~$5,000): This will help us pay for transportation and dishwashing costs for at least the first few months.
Technology (~$15,000): This will help us begin
developing our smartphone application and web site, which are pivotal to our
After we learn from our experience in Ann Arbor, we will expand to every other city where reuse makes sense. Will your city be next?
How can you be part of the movement to take the waste out of takeout?
We know there are a lot of people out there like you – people who believe in a better, greener, waste-free future. We’re counting on you and fellow members of the Indiegogo community to help us make this a reality. We are confident that a successful campaign will not only help BizeeBox get off the ground, but also make a bold statement to restaurant owners nationwide that people are ready for something better!
We appreciate anything you can contribute! We also really, really need you to:
- Refer other people to our Indiegogo campaign using the Indiegogo share tools
- Like us and share our campaign page on Facebook
- Follow us on Twitter … and tweet about us!
- +1 us on Google+
- Tell your colleagues about us on LinkedIn
Tell everyone you know that BizeeBox is up to
something really cool!
So even if you can’t contribute financially, there’s still plenty you can do to become part of an awesome community of like-minded individuals trying to make the world a better place. Thank you in advance!
What You Get
Check out the contribution levels and perk on the top right side of this page. We purposely chose perks that are light on “stuff” – we don’t want our campaign to generate the type of waste that we’re trying to reduce! Instead, our perks are about you joining an amazing community of individuals interested in making a difference. So get your BizeeBox reusable bag or t-shirt and get out there and be an ambassador of reuse!
We do want to highlight the perk that we’re most excited about:Adopt-a-Box! It works like this: Once our service is up and running, we’ll send you an invitation to “adopt” a BizeeBox. Once you accept, you’ll be able to login to our web site and see how often the container has been used, where it has been used, and, most importantly, track just how much of an impact your investment is having! Please note, though, that our ability to fulfill this perk depends on our ability to develop all of the necessary technology, which is why the fulfillment date is not right away. But we will keep you updated!
Frequently Asked Questions
Wait, is this clean and safe? I don’t like the idea of using someone else’s container.
Yes! BizeeBox containers are just as clean as anything else you’re going to eat off of. In fact, we’d venture to say that we’d rather eat off something we cleaned locally than something that was manufactured, boxed up, shipped thousands of miles, and stored in a warehouse!
The cleaning and sanitizing standards we use are the same as those required of restaurants. We clean Bizeebox containers using commercial dishwashing equipment in a regularly inspected facility. After cleaning, the containers are examined by a trained Bizeebox staff member. If you are interested in learning more about the regulations governing these procedures, you can read the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s cleaning and sanitizing standards in Chapter 4 of its Food Code.
Wouldn’t it be simpler if I just brought my own clean container to the restaurant and asked them to serve my food in it?
The simple answer is, yes! And some enthusiastic waste reducers try to do just that. Unfortunately, there are two important issues with this. First, the FDA’s Food Code (see 4-603.17: “Returnables, Cleaning for Refilling”) prohibits restaurants from serving food in a container brought in to the establishment by a customer (beverage containers, like coffee mugs, are exempt from this rule). This is to protect us all in case a customer does not completely sanitize their container and it somehow ends up contaminating food served to others. You are allowed, however, to take leftovers from your plate and put them in a container you brought in. But we don’t think asking people to do this is a systematic solution to the problem.
That leads to the second key issue: behavior change. Even if people could bring their own containers, how many people would? They would have to always clean the container themselves and either (a) carry it around all the time until they needed it, or (b) always remember to bring it along on the specific days they think they will use it. We believe our system is easier: you bring back your used (dirty) containers to return receptacles when it makes sense for you, and you are free to pick up a new container whenever you want. You do not need to bring in the old one at the same time as you pick up a new one!
What if people don’t return their BizeeBox containers?
Only diners who are signed up for the program are allowed to take food to-go in a BizeeBox container. We don’t require a deposit up front, but we will charge diners for any containers they don’t return within thirty (30) days. In this way, we ensure that (a) we aren’t giving out expensive containers for free, and (b) people are incentivized to bring their containers back!
What about recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable containers? Aren’t those enough?
That’s a very important question! First, every time a reusable takeout container is used, that’s one less single-use container manufactured for just one meal. Each of those disposables needs to be manufactured, shipped a long way, and cared for at its end-of-life, leading to significant environmental impacts. Second, given today’s infrastructure and consumer behavior, most disposable containers still end up in the landfill, regardless of whether or not they could be recycled or composted. And finally, reusable takeout containers enable more economic activity to happen locally. We pay people to collect, clean, and redistribute the containers locally rather than paying manufacturers and distributors to make and ship containers a long distance.
The best available research says that if reusable takeout containers are in fact reused hundreds of times, which our system is set up to ensure, then they are environmentally preferable to recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable containers. Be sure to check out our blog posts on the benefits of reuse and don’t hesitate to contact us if you want more information!
What are the containers made of? Are they BPA-free?
The containers BizeeBox currently uses are made from #5 polypropylene (PP) plastic, are BPA-free and are NSF certified. They are manufactured in China and sold in the U.S. by G.E.T. Enterprises, a restaurant supplier based in Houston, Texas. We did not design these containers, nor do we manufacture them; what we do is make these containers available to as many people as possible.
Like most plastic, PP is made from petroleum, which is not a renewable resource (we know … this pains us to think about too!). The good news is that, as we mentioned above, reusable plastic containers are still preferable to anything else on the market when you look at the entire lifecycle of the product.
How will BizeeBox make money after you run out of Indiegogo money? Or is this a non-profit?
BizeeBox is a for-profit venture. We will make money by charging restaurants a per-container usage fee just like they currently pay for disposable takeout containers, selling advertising, and offering marketing services based on the data we gather. We have a business plan based on several years’ of research, but most investors want proof of concept for a new idea like this with an uncertain demand. So we’re out to prove not only that people are ready to embrace reusable takeout containers, but that our service can be profitable. Our plan is to test all of the research-based estimates and assumptions in our business plan so that we can then make the case to investors, restaurants, and cities that our model makes sense everywhere.
Wait, but won’t the collection bins get smelly and attract vermin?
Our experience launching a reusable takeout container program while in school showed that as long as the return receptacles are emptied on a daily basis, there are no problems. Our bins will be sturdy and hard to break into, and we will empty them daily (or more often, if necessary) while also cleaning them on a regular basis. We are therefore confident that they will stay clean, shiny, and safe 365 days a year!
Do containers get stained or fall apart if they’re used too many times?
The containers we buy have been tested in hundreds of places by thousands of customers and typically last for more than 350 uses. In fact, in our experience, the containers have a breakage rate of less than 1%. Even better, they don’t stain, even if you fill them with BBQ sauce or Chicken Tikka Masala. As long as they go through a commercial dishwasher (which they will), then there are no problems!
And you don’t have to worry that you’re getting an old, beat-up container, because we’re tracking each one and will make sure that they are recycled once they reach the end of their “life.”
Can I put BizeeBox containers in my own dishwasher or microwave?
Yes, you sure can! You can use them to heat up leftovers in the microwave and clean them in your dishwasher. Keep in mind, though, that since these are plastic containers, you cannot place them on stovetops, in ovens, or on any other similarly hot surfaces because the containers will melt and/or be damaged.
Where will I be able to pick up food in a BizeeBox container once I sign up for the program?
You will be able to take food to-go in a BizeeBox container at any participating restaurant. We will try our best to get as many restaurants on board as possible, as soon as possible. In the meantime, if you’re sick of your containers ending up in the landfill, let your favorite restaurant owner know that you want them to start using BizeeBox!
If you have any other questions, please email us or post a comment. Thank you! You rock!