The Food Waste Chronicles: BYO is the new GOAT

BYO stands for Bring Your Own, and in this case it means bring your own foodware and utensils as a way to cut down on food waste.

By Yayoi Koizumi, of Zero Waste Ithaca

Texting and social media have made many of us armchair experts at acronyms. Today we’re talking proudly about B.Y.O. FYI, BYO, aka Bring Your Own, is a practice gaining steam, and ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), BYO is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) of the zero waste movement. And in this case we’re not just talking about BYO beer, or even bags. We mean bring your own… mugs, plates, napkins, utensils – whatever you’d need instead of grabbing a single-use foodware.

Creating more opportunity for Bringing Your Own to reduce waste is the spirit of the current “Right to Refill” bill in the NYS Senate, SB2079, aka the BYO bill.

BYO is widely accepted as a safe practice by health authorities around the world. There has not been a single documented case of cross contamination from BYO practice to date. The practice is also promoted as the first defense against plastic pollution in many countries, including Canada, those in the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.

And it’s not just the environment that benefits: businesses can save a lot of money by switching to reusables over single-use containers. One pizzeria told us these containers cost them over $1,000 a month!

In the past year, we have signed up over 100 businesses in the Ithaca area. Look for our round green stickers to know which businesses want to support BYO practice. We are heartened to see an outpouring of community support for our participating local businesses – check out who we’re celebrating on our social media.

Oregon Senate just passed a bipartisan BYO bill that will allow BYO for food takeouts and has a timeline to make BYO allowable also at grocery store delis. BYO is already fully allowed in California.

We are currently working with New York State Senators Kavanagh and Krueger and Representative Fahy to amend SB2079 to allow BYO for food takeouts and at grocery store delis. Contact us at to support the amendments, start your local BYO group, and make NYS the best state to practice BYO.

Zero Waste Ithaca is a grassroots community group of waste reduction enthusiasts helping to make Ithaca a Zero Waste City. Founded in 2018 and based in Ithaca, Zero Waste Ithaca advocates for a sustainable Zero Waste system – a climate imperative. The mission of the group is to promote Zero Waste policies and culture.

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