Plastic-free cups and containers: here are your options

Since 1 July 2023, you are no longer allowed to give customers free disposable plastic containers and cups. Choose reusable containers or plastic-free disposable containers or let customers bring their own cups and trays. Explore all the pros and cons and choose what suits you best.

The rules for disposable plastic cups and containers have changed. As of July 2023, you are no longer allowed to give free plastic cups and containers with pickup or delivery orders. You are also required to offer a reusable option. If you do use disposable plastic containers or cups, your customer has to pay for them separately. Starting from 2024, there will also be a ban on plastic disposable cups and containers for on-site consumption. This includes consumptions in a snack bar, in the office, or at a festival.

Here are some alternatives to plastic cups and containers:

Reusable packaging

Replace single-use plastic containers with reusable alternatives. “Customers dislike the large amount of waste with pickup and delivery orders and would love reusable options”, according to Emmy van Daele. Van Daele is campaign coordinator for Mission Reuse, an organisation that promotes and researches reusable options for disposable plastic. “Research done by Recycling Netwerk Benelux shows that 96% of customers are fine with receiving an order in a reusable container. Especially if the reuse system is easy and accessible”, she explains.

Reusable packaging options

There are several ways to switch to using reusable packaging. Think carefully about how each option will affect your business and your practices.


Switching to reusable packaging is initially more expensive than using disposable plastic packaging. However, reuse is cheaper in the long run, Van Daele explains. “After all, you only have to buy the containers once. On top of that, reusable packaging is getting cheaper because supply and demand are growing.”

Calculate your costs

Recycling Netwerk Benelux has developed a calculator to work out the costs and environmental impact of various reusable options. The calculator is only available in Dutch.

Customer brings own cup or container

Having your customers bring their own cup or container is the cheapest and easiest option for you. If you choose this option, also offer an alternative, such as a plastic-free disposable cup or container. That way, you do not have to send customers away empty-handed if they forget their own. 

  • Collecting and washing packaging yourself

    You can collect packaging yourself, for example by asking your customers to return it. Van Daele adds: “Alternatively, you can have the delivery rider pick up the empty containers when they make a repeat order.”
    On a small scale, washing a few containers is not very time-consuming (in Dutch). “Hospitality businesses that wash reusable cups and containers themselves often throw them in with the other dishes. They collect the containers in a big bin and wash them when they have the time.”
  • Outsourcing collection and washing

    You can also have another company collect and wash used containers on your behalf. Companies such as Ozarka, PackBack, and Billie Cupdie supply, collect, and wash packaging. It is very convenient, but usually more expensive than doing it yourself. “We crunched the numbers for an office. Outsourcing is cheaper for companies with 300 employees or more”, Van Daele explains. “It is only an interesting option if you do not have your own system for washing dishes and have an extraordinary number of containers.” Do you deliver meals locally and regionally? Then collecting and having reusable containers or cups washed for you is not (yet) a feasible option. The transportation costs would simply be too high.
  • Deposit

    Ask for a deposit and refund it when your customer returns the packaging. “Customers like the ease and convenience of deposits. Besides, they are already familiar with deposits on glass beer bottles. 70% of people would rather pay a deposit while ordering than a fine afterwards”, Van Daele says. There are also companies that sell reusable deposit cups to businesses, such as WeCup. They deliver the cups and also pick them up from you.

Window poster 'Bring your own cup and bowl'

Want to let your customers know they are welcome to bring their own cup or bowl? Display a poster (in Dutch) in your shop window!

Plastic-free disposable packaging

You are allowed to give your customers plastic-free disposable cups and food containers free of charge. You could use cups made from natural materials such as sugarcane, for example. Note that if you choose this solution, you must also offer customers a reusable alternative. Van Daele explains: “This is mandatory. The government wants reusable packaging to overtake disposable alternatives.”