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Preventing Plastic Pollution One Restaurant at a Time

Preventing Plastic Pollution One Restaurant at a Time

November 10, 2016

At most food service establishments, to-go orders are packaged in Styrofoam boxes, accompanied with plastic utensils, and then presented to the consumer in a plastic bag. When dining in, plastic straws are placed in drink orders as second nature. Not surprisingly, these single-use convenient plastic items are among the most common items we continuously pick up at beach cleanups. These plastic products never biodegrade once reaching our waterways. Instead, the plastic breaks into tiny pieces and is mistaken by plankton and fish for food.

We’ve been urging folks to #refuseplastic and opt for reusable materials instead. When ordering take-out, you can request that your food be wrapped in alluminum foil without utensils or a bag. You can carry your own resusable straw and utensils with you also!

We’ve been working with our friends at Surfrider Foundation who’ve launched their Ocean Friendly Restaurant Campaign to prevent this type of plastic pollution from entering our waterways.

Restaurants participating in the OFR Program MUST follow these four criteria:

1. No expanded polystyrene use (aka Styrofoam).

2. Proper recycling practices are followed.

3. Only reusable tableware is used for onsite dining and utensils for to-go food are provided only upon request.

4. No plastic bags offered for takeout or to-go orders.

And choose a minimum of three of these criteria as well:

5. Plastic straws are provided only upon request.

6. No beverages sold in plastic bottles.

7. Discount offered for customers with reusable cup, mug, bag, etc.

8. Vegetarian/vegan food options are offered on a regular basis. All seafood must be a ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ as defined by Seafood Watch or certified as sustainable.

9. Water conservation efforts such as low-flow faucets and toilets.

10. Energy efficiency efforts such as LED lighting and Energy Star appliances.

Implement all 10 of the criteria to be recognized as a Platinum Level Ocean Friendly Restaurant!

Check out this Quick Guide for Restaurants for specific ways to meet each of the criteria.

It’s easy to think that we NEED straws and can’t live without our plastic utensils since we’ve become so accustomed to them, but prior to World War II, we didn’t have these items. If you’re visiting a restaurant that isn’t an Ocean Friendly Restuarant, simply opt to eat in and say, no straw please! A little goes a long way.

Do you own or manage a restaurant that you would like to register as an Ocean Friendly Restaurant? Click on the link above to the chapter closest to you. If you are located elsewhere please email ofr@surfrider.org. Learn more about the campaign here. 

For more ways you can be the solution to plastic pollution, click here. 

Sandra Meola

Communications and Outreach Associate

NY/NJ Baykeeper