Reducing Plastic Use Among Commuters and CoastSmart Restaurants

A takeout container left on the roadside.

Salem Sound Coastwatch is working with high school interns to develop effective community-based social marketing messages and launch a “CoastSmart” restaurant campaign to reduce the use of single-use plastics. 

Type of Project: Prevention

Region: Northeast

Project Dates: September 2020 - August 2022

Who is involved?
With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Salem Sound Coastwatch, in partnership with Girls Inc., and Salem Public Schools, is developing projects for high school interns in Salem and Lynn, Massachusetts. These projects include a CoastSmart Restaurant Campaign that works with local restaurants by providing more reusable options in their takeout packaging, producing educational videos about composting, developing a single-use plastic reduction ad campaign, and creating an inventory of existing cigarette butt collection efforts to measure effectiveness. 

What is the project and why is it important?
As discovered nationwide and proven by data collected by Salem Sound Coastwatch over the years, restaurants and their customers are a large source of marine debris. The trash produced may include food wrappers, takeout containers, bottle caps and lids, straws and utensils, bottles and cans, bags, plates and cups, six-pack holders, miscellaneous packaging materials, and all micro-sized debris. Cigarette butts are also commonly found types of debris during cleanups.

Salem Sound Coastwatch and their partners are engaging a diverse population of youth in community-based social marketing research and service projects that address these marine debris issues in their communities. Project staff and high school students are working to reduce the amount of single-use plastics and cigarette butts that begin as street litter and end up on beaches and in the ocean. This project combines the best techniques from previously established programs and develops effectively tailored bilingual, Spanish and English, messaging for the unique commercial and residential populations of Salem and Lynn, Massachusetts. Partners recruited groups of high school interns in Salem and Lynn, who are executing service projects, presenting their projects’ progress, and engaging with their communities to help reduce marine debris. These efforts will include a CoastSmart Restaurant campaign, aimed at asking restaurants to commit to “green practices” such as providing more reusable or biodegradable options in their takeout packaging, composting, or improving their waste management.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.