Youth Entrepreneur of the Year 2023: Anastasia Kiku takes out single-use packaging with Reusables

Former pro ski racer Kiku develops zero-waste solutions

When I call Anastasia Kiku, she’s at SFU’s Burnaby campus. Things are hectic. They’ve been like that since her company, Reusables—which helps organizations shift from single-use packaging to more a sustainable approach—moved its focus to university campuses and corporate offices. “Honestly, it’s been a pretty big pivot,” she admits. “Before it was mostly on takeout for restaurants, cafés, grocery stores. Now the focus is on closed-loop environments.”

The project launched at SFU began two weeks before our conversation, and Kiku says that she’s “dealing with all the issues as they come up.” Starting with the school’s Mackenzie Café, students can get their reusable containers filled with food and return them (in three days or less) to the appropriately labelled smart bins.

Since its launch in 2021, Reusables—which Kiku co-founded with Jason Hawkins—has diverted over five tonnes of waste, avoided over 20 tonnes of CO2e emissions and worked with over 100 restaurants to empower more than 5,000 people to reuse 150,000 takeout containers.

The shift to corporate clients promises to be even more impactful and potentially habit-changing. “I think we’re learning that sustainability gets you in the door and allows you to start the conversation, but only a really strong business case and strong economics will allow you to deliver and have one of those long-term relationships,” says Kiku, noting that Reusables, which has five full-time and three part-time employees—hopes to have five more corporate contracts by early 2024.

“In a couple of years, we’ll have developed a model that helps our clients from both an environmental and financial perspective; we’ll be able to show how transitioning to Reusables helps save money and the environment.”