One of the things some people say when I tell them about my zero-waste fast food adventures is that businesses are probably not allowed to do that. “You know like health or food safety or something like that“. Well I took food safe and I own a dishwasher so what else do I need to know? But wait, here are some real answers from a real government official. Not just a crazy woman typing on her couch…
Below is a letter from Tim Lambert from the Ministry responsible for Healthy Living and Sport, which is responsible for Food Safety in BC, Canada. I heard about this letter when I attended the Clean Bin Project viewing earlier this year. Here is the Clean Bin Project’s blog post I copied the letter from http://cleanbinproject.com/2010/11/05/are-reusable-containers-unsanitary/.
“. . . There is no provision within the Food Premises Regulation that specifically prohibits the use of reusable containers. Section 12 mandates that an operator must (a) protect food from contamination; and, (b) store, handle, prepare, display, and dispense food in a sanitary manner. Some food premises may allow or even encourage the use of reusable containers for environmental benefits or cost-saving potential. However, some may interpret the regulation in such a way that reusable containers prevent operators from keeping food and the premise sanitary. Some opportunity for cross contamination exists, such as with grocery store delis that place containers on weighing scales or restaurants bringing containers into the kitchen area, which is probably why some food premises may interpret the regulation to prohibit this type of activity.
I agree that reducing packaging is an important environmental concern and encourage the use of reusable items where their use does not create public health concerns. Although a food premises’ policy will be informed by their interpretation of the legislation, I would encourage you to speak with the operators of the food premises you frequent and try to reach a solution. You may wish to share a copy of this email with them.
I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.
Tim Lambert Executive Director Health Protection”
Timothy Lambert is the Executive Director of Health Protection, BC Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport. The Health Protection branch addresses food safety, source and drinking water, on-site sewerage, air quality, healthy community environments, community care and assisted living residences. Tim holds an adjunct position with University of British Columbia, School of Environmental Health and has two areas of research: the People’s Health Commission of Nova Scotia, evaluating the impact of coke and steel production on the residential community adjacent the Sydney Tar Ponds; and, public health ethics, in particular, developing the concept of environmental justice. Tim holds a BSc. in biochemistry from the University of Calgary, an MSc. in environmental science and engineering from the University of Alberta, and a Ph.D. in Public Health Science from the University of Alberta. – bio from a BC environmental conference
So basically businesses will not be in any legal danger from doing what their customers ask in regards to personal reusable containers. Cool. I think I might have a “happily married totally platonic zero-waste” crush on Tim Lambert.
Does this excite you or is it just me?
“To achieve true sustainability, we must reduce our ‘garbage index” – that which we permanently throw away into the environment that will not be naturally recycled for reuse – to near zero. Productive activities must be organized as closed systems. Minerals and other nonbiodegradable resources, once taken from the ground, must become a part of society’s permanent capital stock and be recycled in perpetuity. Organic materials may be disposed into the natural ecosystems, but only in ways that assure that they are absorbed back into the natural production system.”
“We must convince each generation that they are transient passengers on this planet earth. It does not belong to them. They are not free to doom generations yet unborn. They are not at liberty to erase humanity’s past nor dim its future.”
Bernard Lown and Evjueni Chazov