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Rogue To Go program is expected to start with five restaurants

The city of Ashland has received a $9,700 grant from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for a pilot program to test out reusable to-go containers at local restaurants.

Climate and energy analyst Stu Green said five restaurants that have been closely involved with the Ashland Conservation Commission and have showed interest in conservation practices will start off the “Rogue To Go” program.

The restaurants are Simple Cafe, Falafel Republic, Pie and Vine, Sesame Kitchen and Ashland Food Co-Op. Green said several other restaurants have expressed interest in the green program.

To participate, patrons can go to any of the participating locations and “buy in” with a one-time fee that buys them either a token or a hard-shell reusable to-go box (if they’ve ordered food).

The token and to-go box tell participating restaurants that the patron has already bought into the program. From there they can either return their to-go box and receive a token for the next time, or exchange their to-go box for a clean one if they’re ordering food again.

Green said the fee hasn’t been determined yet but will mostly likely be around $10.

The money from the fees will mostly go to the participating restaurants for their time spent cleaning the boxes, as well as for replacement materials, said Assistant City Administrator Adam Hanks.

Staff has estimated that 1,500 reusable boxes, 500 cups and 2,000 tokens will cost $9,603, including shipping. The remaining money from token sales will be spent on marketing and outreach materials.

Green said he’s hoping the program will start 4 to 6 weeks from now.

The grant runs through May 2020, and he said the hope is that the project will continue on its own after.

“It’s been a lot of discussion of what would work for our community. There’s a lot of other similar projects happening around the country,” Green said.

He said this program is unique because it will incorporate several local businesses using the same interchangeable products, with the potential to expand to the whole community.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.