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Ditch the Disposables - Reducing Litter at its Source

Litter in our waterways is increasing due to an ever-greater reliance on single-use items such as Styrofoam and single-use plastic containers. Of the 14,272 pounds of water-borne litter removed from Mobile County waterways by Osprey Initiative personnel between 2018 and 2021, Styrofoam material accounts for over 30%. This provides a strong case for implementing an alternative-packaging campaign targeting local businesses currently using Styrofoam packaging and single-use plastic products.

The Ditch the Disposables Program was developed to reduce litter from our environment at its source. Instead of organizing community clean ups to remove litter from our lands and waters, this Program focuses upstream to engage local restaurants in piloting a Ditch the Disposables campaign in hopes that they will adopt more environmentally friendly products.

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Maurice White - Owner of Big White Wings in Prichard, AL

The purpose of the Ditch the Disposables program is to promote the wise stewardship of the quality and living resources of Alabama’s estuarine waters by reducing litter in the environment. Goals include changing behavior around the use of Styrofoam and single-use products up front to reduce the waste stream at its source.

Goals will be reached by completing the following objectives:

  1. Determine customer preferences related to the elimination of Styrofoam food-packaging.
  2. Determine customers’ willingness to pay more for biodegradable food packaging.
  3. Raise awareness about the negative environmental impacts of single-use items.
  4. Educate citizens and business owners about alternative sustainable packaging options.
  5. Provide local businesses with tools and incentives to switch to sustainable packaging alternatives.
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Mary's Southern Cooking - Mobile, AL

In December 2019, the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) began partnering with locally owned restaurants across Mobile County on Ditch the Disposables campaigns. Partner restaurants are selected based on the following criteria: location within Mobile County, popularity, local ownership, standard use of Styrofoam products, and a significant portion of carry-out business. MBNEP supplies partner restaurants with plant-based biodegradable packaging products to use during the campaign in place of their Styrofoam and single-use plastic products. Restaurant customers are surveyed to elicit feedback and to determine:

  1. Preferences around the elimination of Styrofoam food-packaging; and
  2. Willingness to pay more for sustainable and biodegradable food packaging.
Eco Friendly Takeout Packaging

To date, MBNEP has partnered with four different restaurants across Mobile County including:

  1. Big White Wings in Prichard,
  2. Miguel’s Beach’n Baja on Dauphin Island,
  3. Mary’s Southern Cooking on Springhill Avenue in Mobile, and
  4. Bama Bob’s BBQ on Dauphin Island Parkway in Mobile.

Through these four campaigns, a total of 729 customer surveys were completed. The most significant finding is that 87% of surveyed customers are willing to pay a few cents more for their meals to help the restaurant cover the cost of biodegradable packaging. These data can be viewed below.

DTD All Survey Results Big Whites Miguels Marys Bama Bobs FINAL

Survey Results

Take the Pledge!