CASE was featured in the Toronto Star!
This article was published on Sept 23, 2021 by Wing Sze Tang. We would like to give a special shoutout to Wing for the interview and writing about our work.
Are you throwing out your takeout containers? This Toronto entrepreneur has a smarter, more sustainable idea
Pop quiz: when you buy takeout that comes in black plastic, should the packaging go into the garbage or blue bin? Ask the City of Toronto and you’ll learn that (surprise!) no black plastic of any kind is accepted for recycling by the municipality. This is partly because the optical sorting machines used just can’t recognize the colour. So the city’s answer: dump directly into the trash.
But ask Catherine Marot, founder of Case, and she has a smarter idea: that takeout plastic need not be thrown out after a single meal. After all, why toss a totally functional container when a restaurant has to buy that exact same container again? Her startup has figured out a circular system, supplying Toronto food businesses with plastic containers otherwise destined for the landfill.
The idea for her company dates back three years. “I used to work in corporate downtown and go to the Path every day for lunch. Seeing the amount of takeout in that place, it blew my mind,” says Marot. “I didn’t think at the time that I could just stop my job and do something for the environment. But I thought, you know, what I can do is reuse these black plastic takeout containers we’re getting.”
So she did just that: for her lunch orders, she began toting around old containers for herself and for some co-workers who would humour her good intentions. Then a summer student’s skepticism pushed the idea from a funny personal habit to the seed of a business concept. “They said, ‘Why do you do this? It’s kind of idealistic — you’re really not making a difference.’
“And that got me thinking,” Marot explains. “Seeing as how my colleagues would never carry their own takeout container, I thought, ‘What if there was a system acting in the background that did exactly what I was doing with my colleagues, but on a scaled-up level?’”
If you have cleaned, reusable plastic takeout containers that meet Marot’s specs (#5 polypropylene containers in various sizes and colours are accepted), you can donate them to Case through one of her public collection boxes, set up at participating grocery stores and farmers’ markets in Toronto.
Today, Marot spends virtually all her time collecting and sorting heaping piles of plastic containers, taking them to be thoroughly sanitized and then supplying them back to restaurants that want to buy them. It’s a process she describes as “extremely laborious” but meaningful; to date, she’s collected 60,000 containers that would’ve wound up in the trash.
“I really believe in the impact that this can have,” she says, “and I’m just someone who was like, you know, I’ll get the ball rolling.”
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