Plastic Free Gulf Coast, Helping Restaurants Reduce Plastic Waste

Napkin bin with sign about plastic free gulf coast.
Signs like these help educate restaurant goers about plastic debris. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Englebretson)

Plastic Free Gulf Coast is focused on reducing the use of single-use plastics, polystyrene, and plastic-lined food/beverage containers within the five gulf states through outreach, education, and providing single-use plastic alternatives to restaurants and consumers.  

Type: Marine Debris Prevention Grant

Region: Gulf of Mexico

Project Dates: August 2018 – July 2020

Who is involved? 
With the support of the NOAA Marine Debris Prevention Grant, the Mississippi State University’s (MSU) Gulf Coast Community Design Studio’s Plastic Free Gulf Coast program is working to engage and educate consumers and businesses about single-use plastic pollution. Partners include MSU Coastal Extension (Biloxi, MS), Mobile Baykeepers (Mobile, AL), Marketing for Change (Orlando,FL), Plastic Free April (Bay St. Louis, MS), and more.

What is the project and why is it important?
The Zagat “State of American Dining in 2016, Dining Trends Survey” showed the average American eats out 4.5 times per week. The restaurant demographic is a large, repeat, and captive audience. With the Plastic Free Gulf Coast project, restaurants can be a driving force for behavior change by offering alternatives to single-use plastics, raising awareness about plastic pollution, and providing consumers the opportunity to make an immediate impact.

Plastic Free Gulf Coast is focused on engaging and supporting restaurants to make the transition away from single-use plastics and make plastic alternative to-go products socially accepted, accessible, and affordable. The Plastic Free Gulf Coast program is also working to create a regional green economy as consumer and business demand grows for alternative products. As the project creates more demand for plastic alternatives in restaurants, the program hopes to engage manufacturing companies to help meet these demands.