Earlier this Spring, Algalita joined the LB Reuses Coalition that formed once Upstream Solutions Board Member, Ashley Craig, moved to Long Beach and began partnering with businesses to encourage reuse in the community by simply offering a sticker that notifies customers that their establishment accepts and encourages reuse. Shortly after, earlier members of the coalition joined in, including Algalita, Bring Your Own Long Beach, Ethikli Sustainable Market, and The City of Long Beach Environmental Services Bureau. The LB Reuses Coalition’s mission is to reduce single-use plastics and overall waste through engagement, advocacy, and collaboration to activate reuse initiatives in Long Beach, California. Covering all corners of the community, the coalition quickly got to work in envisioning a city-wide activation that brought together dozens of local businesses and encouraged long term use of reusables cups, bags, and other containers in order to reduce pollution and waste caused by single-use plastics. Thus, the first annual BYO Week in Long Beach was born! Aligning with the efforts of Zero Waste October, the Coalition dedicated an entire week (September 29 – October 7) to promoting reuse and BYO across our beloved City of Long Beach. To ensure the week was as inclusive and impactful as possible, the coalition focused on the following themes:
There are many businesses throughout Long Beach that have allowed customers to BYO for years, but we noticed a disconnect in customers being aware of this more sustainable choice they could make at their favorite local businesses. We wanted to shine a light on and promote these businesses who accept (and promote!) reuse on a daily basis, as well as encourage other businesses to adopt BYO protocols. With a short timeline for planning and with the help from our adaptive coalition members, 24 business locations covering every City Council district in Long Beach joined in the effort! You can find the entire list of businesses here. We anticipate an even greater participation next year, considering we had a number of businesses reach out to participate in the next activation!
To encourage community participation, we added a gamification element to the week. Each participant either printed their own or picked up a stamp card at a participating business. Throughout BYO Week, customers could visit any of the participating businesses to earn a stamp toward epic zero-waste prizes, including sets of reusables, gift cards to Bring Your Own Long Beach, and the grand prize of a Bureo skateboard and activity set made from recycled derelict fishing nets!
In addition to local businesses, the community also earned stamps by attending BYO Week events. Every event was free for the entire community and centered on the important theme of reuse and zero-waste. We kicked off the week with The Story of Plastic screening at The Aquarium of the Pacific where 100+ community members attended and got inspired by this moving documentary film that features our very own organization, Algalita! A number of awesome community events followed, including a Reuse 101 workshop at BYO Long Beach, Zero Waste Trivia, and even free Herbal Tea Blending offered by Green Wisdom Herbal Studies! We ended the week with a community beach cleanup on the Long Beach Peninsula – a perfect way to bring the first annual BYO Week to a close.
As mentioned earlier, the overall goal of this week–long activation was to encourage long term adoption of reuse through educating the community on why reuse is an important part of the solution to a myriad of environmental issues, like climate change, plastic pollution, resource extraction, waste management, and more. We heard from many participants that they had no idea how such simple switches on an individual scale could have such a big impact when we all come together on a shared goal!
Did you know the US generates 2,500 lbs of waste per person annually? Roughly 30% of this comes from disposable plastic items like containers, cups, bags, and utensils that are often used once before disposal. What’s more concerning is that the majority of plastic packaging isn’t recycled, leading to significant pollution that permeates our land and waterways far longer than our lifetime. While choosing reuse over single-use is a great way to reduce waste generation, there are other reasons why making the switch is a smart move for everyone:
- Limits exposure to toxic additives found in plastic packaging
- Decrease your environmental footprint
- Increased savings for businesses who choose to ditch single-use plastics
- Significantly reduces energy use, water consumption, and resource extraction that greatly contributes to the climate crisis.
The Current Disposable Food Service Economy
- Nearly 1 trillion individual pieces of disposable food ware and packaging is used by US restaurants and food service businesses annually.
- $24 billion spent by restaurants and food-service businesses on disposables each year.
- Nearly 9 million tons equals the total weight of all the disposables used annually – equivalent to the weight of 25 Empire State Buildings.
- $6 billion spent by businesses and city governments on solid waste management costs attributable to disposable food packaging annually.
The Future Reuse Food Service Economy
- 86% of disposables avoided through 100% of on-site dining being disposable-free and new reuse services for take-out and delivery expanded to all US cities.
- $5 billion saved by food service businesses from no longer buying disposables for on-site dining.
- 841 billion disposable food packaging items avoided meaning that 7.5 million tons of materials would be averted annually.
- $5.1 billion saved by businesses and city governments on solid waste management costs attributable to disposable food packaging.
It’s been inspiring working alongside incredible change makers, innovative small businesses, and community members. The LB Reuses coalition could not have done this without the encouragement and participation of so many individuals interested in making a change in their community! We hope this blog post shines a light on this important issue and inspires other cities and communities to lead their own BYO Week adventure! Interested in learning more? Reach out to Algalita’s Engagement Director at firstname.lastname@example.org to chat more about how you can lead a similar local initiative.
Buying Zero Waste Tea at Green Wisdom Herbal Studies.
Collecting a Stamp at BYO Long Beach.
Attendees at The Story of Plastic screening at the Aquarium of the Pacific.
Beach Cleanup on the Long Beach Peninsula.
BYO Week Long Beach 2023 Stamp Card (front).