Zero Waste Arlington is reducing plastic waste in Arlington one fork, spoon, knife, and condiment packet at a time. Our ‘No Plastic, Please!’ partnership with local restaurants is the first step in eliminating excess single-use restaurant waste.

The enormity of the plastic waste problem is widely known.

Americans use more than 36 billion utensils and as many as 142 billion straws each year.

Start Small, Think Big

In the U.S., 561 billion disposable food service items are used every year, resulting in 4.9 million tons of waste. Reducing plastic waste on a global scale will require global changes, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure as to how you can make any impact. Our ‘No Plastic, Please!’ campaign is aimed at helping consumers and local businesses work together to make a collective impact. Our initial focus is on excess, unnecessary restaurant waste. Our longer term goal is to tackle the broader single-use plastic industry through legislation such as Producer Responsibility. 

Qualified ‘No Plastic, Please!’ Restaurants 

When dining at participating restaurants, customers can be assured that they will not receive single-use extras unless they specifically ask for them. Qualified restaurants commit to the following:

  • For Dining In: provide reusable plates, utensils, and drinkware; provide straws, single-use condiments packets only by customer request. 
  • For Takeout or Delivery: only add single-use items (utensils, straws, napkins, condiment packets, chopsticks) if specifically requested.

So far, six local restaurants have joined the program: Roasted Granola, Szechuan’s Dumpling, The Heights Pub, Punjab, Noodle Market, and Za

A Collective Impact

Just think: If all 46,000 residents refuse a single-use fork just once, that’s 46,000 fewer single-use forks in the trash. If 46,000 residents refuse one twice, that’s 92,000 fewer single-use forks in the trash.  If 46,000 residents refuse one three times, … well, you get the math. Designated ‘No Plastic, Please!’ restaurants make collective change easier as they’ve set their default to no unnecessary single-use items unless specifically requested by you, the consumer. 

Addressing Plastic and Compostable Takeout Containers

It’s time to address the elephants in the room…

Plastic takeout containers 
Especially the black to-go containers – they really are the worst.  And we know, it may be confusing that ‘No Plastic, Please!’ restaurants may use plastic containers for food delivery. But between health code rules, supply chain issues, and meeting the customers’ expectations for food delivery quality, it is currently very difficult for restaurants to shift away from plastic to-go containers at this time.

When meeting with restaurant personnel, we were cheered that many of them understand that customers do not want black plastic containers and that many actively order ones that are recyclable curbside in Arlington.  However, several restaurants indicated that even when they order the non-black plastic containers, they receive black containers as the global supply chain issues caused by the pandemic are still impacting this market.  

Compostable takeout containers
While we know those earthy-looking compostable containers seem like the answer to single-use plastic, unfortunately they are not. They simply replace one single-use item with another. Further, studies have shown compostables require more energy, water and chemicals in their production than other single-use alternatives. And they only compost in industrial composters – when placed in garbage or home composters, they don’t compost and are just, well, garbage. 

Restaurants are trying to do the right thing by offering compostables to their customers, but both restaurants and consumers are being green-washed into paying more for a less effective solution. 

Consumers can take extra steps

Beyond ‘No Plastic, Please!’, consumers can reduce their takeout container waste by:

  • Bringing your own reusable containers to restaurants to bring home leftovers when dining in. Due to health code rules, the customer must transfer the leftovers to the container at the table – restaurant workers are not permitted to handle or use customer containers.
  • Ask your favorite restaurant to use reusable containers such as Recirciable, an Arlington based business.

Join us in reducing unnecessary single-use waste by saying “No Plastic, Please” when visiting your favorite Arlington restaurant. We see this as a win-win for customers and restaurants: customers receive only what they need to enjoy their meal and restaurants are recognized as being environmentally conscious.

Help us grow this campaign

Do you know a business that is already low-waste friendly? Email us so we can reach out to them and add them to our list. Encourage your favorite eatery to participate in ‘No Plastic, Please!’.



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