Austin, TX-based Plastic Reduction Project educates city restaurants and the public about sustainable dining options. The nonprofit’s mission is to ensure people know about the benefits of switching to greener dining options, focusing on better choices for plastic takeout containers, forks, cups, and bags often used only once before being thrown away.
One of the most important pieces of education for the Plastic Reduction Project is working with the City of Austin’s zero waste rebate program to ensure restaurant owners know they can potentially get up to $3,000 from the government for switching to waste-reduction policies.
Co-founded by Sean Winn and Lilly Justman in 2022, the organization speaks at schools and hosts events throughout the city to educate the public on the dangers of single-use plastics. The company also offers free consultations to restaurants to review how each establishment can save money using fewer plastic items. The nonprofit also explains how to access Austin’s zero waste rebate programs to local restaurants.
Photo Courtesy Nick Fewings
For Winn, it all began by being curious about what consumer items could be recycled and which could not. He learned that the system was not set up for maximum sustainability.
A 2022 Greenpeace report found that just 5% of the plastic waste generated in the United States in 2021 was transformed into new items. The rest ended up in landfills or directly polluting water, air, and land.
“A lot of the consumer packaged goods are sort of … defective from a recycling standpoint,” he said to Kut News. “They’re not really designed to then flow through the materials stream.”
Photo Courtesy Plastic Reduction Project
In addition, the Plastic Reduction Project encourages people to use PlasticScore, an app that allows users to rate restaurants based on their sustainability practices. The app then tallies up ratings and gives each restaurant a score that all app owners can see.
The hope is that consumers will use this information and patronize more sustainable restaurants. Data from the app is also sent to the City of Austin to bring bigger change to the Lone Star capital city.
“The app helps people find more sustainable restaurants where they can sort of vote with their pocketbook to give business to the folks that are trying to do better in this space,” Winn told Kut News.
Photo Courtesy Sigmund
Residents are encouraged to donate to The Plastic Reduction Project on the organization’s website. The nonprofit hopes to reach all corners of the city with its message of planet- and money-saving practices.
“If the diner never gets handed a plastic fork, then that’s good for everybody, not just the green tree huggers,” Winn said to Kut News. “Everybody gets a proper fork and a proper plate, and, therefore, you’re moving the needle much more than just preaching to the choir.”
“With a local restaurant, I think we can get to a decision-maker much more easily,” he continued. “If he or she likes what you have to say, then they can implement it right away, and we can talk to them as a peer.”