An employee labels take-and-bake containers at Georgia James restaurant on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Houston. Credit: David J. Phillip / AP

A change to the Maine food code will allow businesses to provide returnable and reusable takeout out containers for their customers.

In May of 2019, the state became the first in the nation to adopt a ban on single-use foam containers, a move that Gov. Janet Mills called an “important step forward in protecting our environment.”

The new changes to the food code are the product of research conducted by the University of Maine’s Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions.

The outcome of the study would allow any establishment that is regulated by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Inspection Program to provide containers that customers could return, and would be cleaned according to food safety standards. The container could then be reused by the establishment.

The policy includes both food and beverage containers.

Jared Entwistle, a University of Maine graduate student and former brewery owner who is leading the project for the Mitchell Center, said that the new policy would have environmental benefits and could potentially save restaurants money.

“The first step in keeping Maine beautiful is to move away from disposable food ware — the dominant source of litter and plastic pollution — and promote reuse,” said Chrissy Adamowicz, the sustainable Maine outreach coordinator at the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

The move is part of Maine’s efforts to encourage sustainability. Starting on July 1, the state adopted a single-use plastic bag ban. Shoppers now have to provide their own reusable bags, or pay an extra fee to purchase a bag.

Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley and staying active in the Maine outdoors.