Did you know that the average American generates around 4.5 lbs of garbage every day? As the warm weather finally arrives and we spend more time outdoors, we need to adapt our Zero Waste habits to an on-the-go lifestyle.

Whether taking walks, picking up takeout for a picnic, exercising, or shopping at the farmer’s market, here are some reminders for reducing your waste when out and about. Bringing your own (BYO) items from home can save significant waste.

Refuse single-use restaurant waste

Ordering takeout to bring on a picnic or picking up a pizza to bring to a backyard BBQ? When ordering to-go, skip the unnecessary waste by saying “No Plastic, Please!. This Zero Waste Arlington campaign recognizes restaurants who are changing the default model to one where consumers have to ask for single-use accessories such as utensils, straws, napkins, cups and condiment packets.

BYO To-Go Kit  

Keep a simple to-go kit in your car or bike pack stocked with reusable items you might need when dining on-the-go such as:

  • Utensils  
  • Water bottle/coffee mug
  • Container for leftovers
  • Straws
  • Cloth napkins
  • Plates
  • Chopsticks

BYO reusable shopping bags

Though Arlington is a plastic-bag free town, paper bags are still a single-use wasted item. Keep a supply of reusable shopping bags in your car, backpack, purse, or next to your car keys, shopping list or door to use at the grocery store, mall, or farmer’s market. 

With so much fresh produce available in the summer, reuse plastic produce bags, or bring reusable mesh or cloth produce bags with you.

BYO reusable water bottle

More than 1.5 billion plastic water bottles and other non-carbonated beverages are sold each year in Massachusetts. To avoid single-use beverage container waste, keep a reusable water bottle with you whenever you leave the house. 

Initiated by Zero Waste Arlington, Arlington implemented a single-use plastic water bottle ban on bottles smaller than 1 liter in November 2022. Since that time, we have partnered with the Town and local businesses to build out a network of water filling stations in town through our Arlington on Tap program where residents can refill reusable water bottles when out and about.

If you must purchase a single-use beverage, select aluminum or glass single-use beverage bottles whenever possible and bring it home to recycle. Boxed beverage containers are not recyclable, even though the packaging may indicate it is made from natural and recyclable materials.

BYO takeout container when dining out

Restaurant portions are often more than we can eat. Rather than waste food, refuse the restaurant’s single-use takeout container and bring a reusable takeout container with you (remember, it’s in your To-Go Kit!). Per the Arlington Board of Health, restaurants cannot put leftover food into your container, but you can fill it yourself at the table.

Refuse store receipts

Refuse store receipts whenever possible since they are often made with a thermal paper that contains BPA. If you require a receipt, requesting an email receipt is a better low-waste option. 

Recycle your pizza boxes

Having a backyard pizza party? Remember, lightly soiled pizza boxes can go into your curbside recycling. If the box is deeply soiled, curbside compost services can compost them. Four private companies are permitted to haul food scraps in Arlington: Black Earth Compost, Bootstrap Compost, City Compost, and Garbage to Garden. Arlington also has a drop-off compost option called Feed FiDO.


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