Our fruitful partnership with Ridwell: Preserving fruit without adding more waste in the environment

As a food justice and environmental organization, City Fruit has actively sought ways to distribute fruit to make the fruit appetizing to our communities and to ensure the longest life possible for fruit we harvest. Many food banks lack the time to package and separate ripe and under ripe fruits, so fruit can be left out in a large crate where many hands may be touching it. Then, certain fruits, like blueberries, grapes, and tomatoes, are so small individually that they are better distributed in containers or bags. There are also other fruits, like plums, that may ripen at different rates, so a crate of harvested plums could go bad if one plum was overripe when we harvested it and then started to go soft and spoil.

In response to this, City Fruit started experimenting with new plastic packaging last year that was donated to us through the Meals Partnership Coalition. We found that our figs and grapes held better, and that community members appreciated the way the fruit was presented to them in a cleaner, dignified fashion. We asked our food bank partners for feedback, and many of them let us know that the fruit was easier to distribute when it was already parceled into family servings. 

UW Intern Maria harvesting blueberries at Canterberry Farms in Auburn!
Blueberries are often harvested into a small bucket and transported in cardboard boxes! They are then divided into smaller portions for community distribution.
Red plums in clamshell containers ready for distribution!
Figs are only harvested when soft and fully ripe. Distributing them in containers is a must to avoid squishing them!
Cherries are another fruit that benefit from being packaged before distribution.

However, as an environmental organization with a strict budget aimed at the care and harvest of fruit trees, we were reluctant to purchase new plastic for our distribution needs this year. We started soliciting containers from our community via social media posts, and that’s when Ridwell found out about our predicament and jumped at the chance to help out.  


Ridwell is a company that started a few years ago when a father and son saw a need in their community in Seattle and asked: “how can we help?” Today, they have more than 30,000 members in the Puget Sound area alone, saving millions of pounds of materials from landfills every day. They do this by connecting members’ stuff like plastic film, old clothing, batteries and more with local partners who can reuse or recycle it. While they had found an answer to the question of how to recycle plastic clamshells in parts of the Seattle area and in Portland, they hadn’t figured out how to reuse them yet.

Ridwell rallied their Seattle crew, and quickly delivered over 100 “like new” quality plastic clamshell containers for us to use. We found that we could make their donations a regular thing, with Ridwell taking the time to educate its members around how to reuse the containers through proper, easy-to-do sanitation steps promoted by King County. Now we’ll be receiving clean* plastic clamshell containers every two weeks to help us move fruit in safe, dignified ways that will help the fruit stay fresher longer.

Ridwell picking up clamshells for reuse and recycling!

This fruitful collaboration is a true win-win. It means we won’t have to buy as many new containers and Ridwell will get to reuse more of the materials they collect from their members right here locally. While they have been regularly recycling plastic clamshells in parts of Seattle and Portland, reusing them is an even more impactful way to reduce waste than recycling them. They’re excited to be working with us to give their members’ used clamshells an impactful second life transporting nutritious, local fruit to our Seattle neighbors. 

Annie from City Fruit receiving clean plastic clamshells.

If you’re not a Ridwell member, now’s a great time to join! Ridwell has offered to make a $15 donation to City Fruit for all new members who sign up using this link! All proceeds raised through this campaign will be directed straight into our harvest operations so City Fruit can continue reducing food waste while Ridwell can continue reducing materials waste city-wide!


*We ensure safe food distribution by following King County Health Department’s guidance for cleaning and disinfecting for food contact surfaces. Please visit this link to learn more about the process: https://kingcounty.gov/depts/health/covid-19/workplaces/food-establishments/~/media/depts/health/communicable-diseases/documents/C19/guidance-food-donation-services.ashx.