Little Rock Launches Campaign to Reduce Single-Use Plastics

Dec 5, 2018

Little Rock is launching a campaign that will encourage restaurants to reduce their reliance on single-use plastics like straws.

Some restaurants are already minimizing the availability of plastic straws and the city is taking note. Vice Mayor Kathy Webb held a news conference Wednesday to talk about the city’s initiative to reduce the use of plastic in restaurants alongside the group Plastic Free Little Rock. While that does include straws, it also includes plastic plates and utensils.

Faith Mullins, the recycling and sustainability educator for the city and a leader of the Plastic Free Little Rock group, says while straws are the starting point, she hopes restaurants will also largely reduce use of plastic utensils.

“We’re trying to increase awareness with just employees of these restaurants about asking people if they need that fork first,” Mullins said. “And then also setting up a little station where customers can get that on their own if they want, so that doesn’t even have to be something that the employees of the restaurants are thinking about.”

While the city is not currently offering any incentives for restaurants to reduce their use of single-use plastics, Mullins says she’s sure there are programs that incentivize restaurants and perhaps the city will move towards that in 2019.

There is also a push for an increase in glass recycling. Although a new contract with Waste Management will likely stop curbside recycling services in Pulaski county, according to Mullins, there is still a market for glass recycling.

“There’s a company in Little Rock called Ace Glass that is building up its capacity to offer glass recycling services. They already have a service that provides a 240-gallon bin for restaurants, bars, other business that go through a lot of glass…So, we definitely don’t want to stop recycling glass in Little Rock. We’re trying to come up with other solutions,” Mullins said.  

The goal is not to completely eliminate the use of straws or other plastics. Some people may need straws due to a disability or health reasons. Overall the goal is reduction.

“When they say eliminating totally, they mean they’re not putting them in the drinks. The servers probably aren’t carrying them around in their serving aprons and you would have to ask for one and it would be brought to your table,” Mullins said. “So, just kind of making it harder to initially access so that people have to think about it and they have to ask the question of ‘Can I get a straw?’ helps reduce the use of [utensils] in general.”