HuiZero, Maui’s First Zero Waste To-Go Food Container Program Set to Launch
HuiZero launches, Maui’s first zero waste to-go container program, on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021 at participating restaurants across Maui.
The stainless steel HuiZero containers are available at participating restaurants to get food to go, and are exchangeable at other participating restaurants.
“We are so excited to have worked together with The Department of Environmental, Environmental Protection & Sustainability Division and the Department of Health to create this safe program for local restaurants, Maui communities and guests,” said Kevin Watkins II, owner of Maui Sustainable Solutions LLC.
Founded Locally as a Zero Waste Solution:
HuiZero was founded by Watkins and Moku Roots owner, Alexa Caskey. Moku Roots has been a pioneer and leader as a sustainable restaurant in Maui, with farm-to-table practices and zero waste solutions.
Maui Sustainable Solutions keystone projects include creating a distributed network of free water refill stations across the islands and propagating the reusable revolution as part of their #plasticfreemaui campaign. In 2020 Maui Sustainable Solutions applied and received a Grant from the Department of Environmental Protection, Environmental Management and Sustainable Division for a feasibility study on a reusable to-go container program for Maui.
“We researched several businesses that had launched across the mainland and other countries in the study, however the emergence of the pandemic closed restaurants and shut down many businesses here and abroad. As the pandemic progressed we designed this program with constant feedback from DOH and successfully created a protocol that is safe and simple for businesses to adopt. In June of 2021 we officially started HuiZero and are excited for our Oct. 8 launch,” said Watkins.
Costs & Logistics:
Customers getting take out at or wanting to take leftovers home from a participating restaurant will pay a $10 deposit for the HuiZero metal tin. They can then return the tin to any restaurant that accepts returns and either get their $10 back (currently offered only at Moku Roots) or get a $10 credit towards purchase (at select locations).
Not all restaurants will accept returns. There are a few food trucks that will be joining and they will be able to serve food in the tins, but because of limited dishwashing capabilities, they won’t accept returns.
What happens often at Moku Roots, is people will return a container and get lunch in another container, “and anytime that there’s an ‘exchange’ they’ll return one, the restaurant will treat it like any other dirty dish and wash/rinse/sanitize it, and the customer will receive their food in a clean one at no charge if they’re returning the same number as they’re taking,” said Watkins.
HuiZero is solidifying its launch list, but already has a growing list of participating restaurants.
On the West side, participants include:
- Moku Roots (335 Keawe St. #211, Lahaina) which accepts returns, and offers cash back or credit towards purchase;
- Choice Health Bar (1087 Limahana Place, Lahaina) which accepts returns and offers credit towards purchase;
- Kīhei Caffe (305 Keawe St. #1, Lahaina) which accepts returns and offers credit towards purchase;
- Earth Aloha Eats (1221 Honoapiʻilani Hwy, Lahaina) which is a distributor ONLY, no returns or exchanges accepted;
- Down the Hatch (658 Front St., Lahaina) which is a distributor ONLY, no returns or exchanges accepted; and
- Cool Cat Cafe (658 Front St., Lahaina) which is a distributor ONLY, no returns or exchanges accepted.
In Central Maui, participating restaurants are:
- Down to Earth (305 Dairy Road, Kahului) which is a distributor ONLY, no returns or exchanges accepted;
- Wailuku Coffee Company (26 North Market St., Wailuku) which accepts returns and offers credit towards purchase; and
- Earth Aloha Eats (520 Keolani Place, Kahului) which is a distributor ONLY, no returns or exchanges accepted.
Upcountry participants are:
- Choice Health Bar (11 Baldwin Ave., Pāʻia) which accepts returns and offers credit towards purchase;
- Satori (3655 Baldwin Ave., Makawao) which accepts returns and offers credit towards purchase; and
- Wailuku Coffee Company (810 Kokomo Road, Haʻikū) which accepts returns and offers credit towards purchase.
In South Maui, the lone participant is:
- Kīhei Caffe (1945 South Kīhei Road, Kīhei) which accepts returns and offers credit towards purchase.
Pandemic Mandates Make it an Ideal Time to Launch:
Owners say many logistics have already been worked out since the program has experience at Moku Roots.
“A returned container is treated exactly the same as any dirty dish, when someone returns it, it goes straight to the dish pit and gets washed/rinsed/sanitized. It doesn’t touch the hands or the cutting boards of the kitchen where food is being prepared, so there’s just absolutely no chance of contamination,” said Watkins.
“The containers are stainless steel and have no nooks/crannies where germs could hide out and survive being washed so it would be just as safe as any clean dish at a restaurant. And with these mandates and lots more people doing takeout, it’s kind of an opportune time to launch,” said Watkins.
One-of-a-Kind Program for Maui:
The HuiZero containers are modeled after Moku Roots to-go containers.
“It was something we had dreamed up in the beginning and hadn’t exactly thought about how to execute until maybe a year ago when we got rolling,” said Watkins.
“Every time a container gets used it’s one fewer single use container in the landfill, and since these container are infinitely reusable,” Watkins said, they have the potential to rid Maui of single use food containers.
“We actually are the only containers/company approved to do this by the health department in Maui. There’s a company on the mainland called go-box that does a redeemable food container program, but they’re plastic clamshells and they have a really bulky business model that creates a lot of work and problems,” he said. “The way we’re doing it is so simple and will avoid [those pitfalls] entirely.”