Stainless steel takeout container startup hopes to expand beyond Boulder

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BOULDER, Colo. — It’s new, it’s shiny, and it’s ready to take on the restaurant industry along the Front Range.

Meet your new takeout container, a concept by a local startup called RepEATer.

“The appetite was always here for a service like this. And now, it’s finally something that they can use,” Ashwin Ramdas, RepEATer’s chief technology officer and co-founder, said Tuesday.

The stainless steel container can be reused at least 2,000 times, putting single-use containers to shame.

“It costs almost nothing for the operators to use, and it costs almost nothing for the consumers to use,” RepEATer’s chief operations officer and co-founder Christopher Todd said.

So far, you can find these containers at a handful of restaurants in Boulder, including Leaf, Zeal and Fresh Thymes Eatery.

“We have regulars who are so sick of wasting all of those products and are really excited to use something that can be used over and over again,” Fresh Thymes general manager Margaret Caffery said.

Here’s how RepEATer works. First, you sign up on its app. Then, you place an order on the participating restaurant’s website and add the container to your order along with your five-digit RepEATer ID from the app. Depending on the size of the container needed to box your order, you could be paying between $0.25-$0.75 to use one.

“Once you’re done with the meal, all you have to do is simply bring it back and drop it off in one of these drop-off bins [located near the restaurant]. Then, we make our rounds each day to pick them up and sanitize them at a commercial facility and then restock restaurants with fresh ones,” Ramdas said.

The startup uses data from the QR code on each container to find out when it was issued, to whom it was issued, and to notify its user when to return it to avoid a late fee.

Tim Broderick, Boulder County’s senior sustainability strategist, welcomes the concept.

“There needs to be innovation in that space because there are not that many options right now that exist, so it’s exciting to hear that that’s a growing field,” he said.

The county, through a partnership with Resource Recycling Systems, is currently accepting applications for grants to help food and beverage manufacturers move toward more sustainable packaging.

“Single-use materials are predominant in the restaurant industry, so alternatives that especially are reusable in nature, it’s incredibly sustainable,” Broderick said.

Ramdas and Todd are getting a head start, one shiny, stainless-steel container at a time.

“It’s really fulfilling for us to be able to do something about it and to create a system where everyone else who loves eating out can enjoy it without all the guilt and trash that comes with it,” Ramdas said.

The startup is hoping to expand to other Boulder restaurants and eventually bring the concept to Denver.