Rethink Disposable in New Jersey

ReThink Disposable logo

Rethink DisposableTM

Throwaway packaging from every industrial nation litters beaches and oceans world-wide, piles up in landfills, and contributes vast amounts of methane, and fills incinerators with dioxin-producing plastics. 

Clean Water Action is taking-on single use disposable products. We are targeting the replacement of all kinds of single use products with durable, re-usable alternatives. From shopping bags, to food and beverage packaging, to plastic water bottles, our goal is to minimize the use of single use products.

Rethink DisposableTM has a proven successful track record working with restaurants and institutions to voluntarily reduce waste caused by single-use throwaways. In doing so, they have reduced their environmental footprint and cost of waste disposal and supply purchases, while increasing customer satisfaction and demand for greener-conscious restaurants. Click on the links or continue reading below to learn more about the program. For more info, contact

Program Updates:

In 2017, Clean Water Action’s ReThink Disposable™ program partnered with festivals, restaurants, and events throughout the summer and made a big impact. Here are some highlights, and what’s ahead for this award-winning program designed to reduce single-use disposable plastic and foam service ware products from polluting our beaches, ocean, waterways, and landfills.

In July, ReThink Disposable partnered with Asbury Park-based artist Maggie Brown and The Starving Artist cafe in Ocean Grove, NJ. Brown showed her collection of paintings inspired by waves coming in from the shore. Brown has a passion for protecting our beaches and oceans and donated a portion of the day’s art sales to Clean Water Action. The Starving Artist kicked off their participation in ReThink Disposable by joining our “Straws By Request Only” program.

ReThink Disposable also partnered with Indy Street Film Fest in Red Bank, NJ. After a screening of the documentary “Barbecue”, Clean Water Action, Robinson Ale House, and JBJ Soul Kitchen hosted a community cookout. Our ReThink Disposable initiative reduced waste by providing reusable baskets with liners. With over 100 guests, less than one bag of garbage was generated. Clean Water Action looks forward to next year’s Indy Street Film Festival and expanding the impact on reducing the festival’s overall waste.

In August, ReThink Disposable launched a funding drive to purchase a portable water refill station. Access to these stations at festivals and other events would reduce unnecessary waste caused by plastic water bottles. The water refill station we have in mind provides free, filtered water as well as educational signage. To date, Clean Water members have raised $1,110 dollars, a quarter of the way to the $4000 needed to purchase one portable unit. Help reach Clean Water reach the goal. Contribute today by visiting our crowd funding page:

In September, ReThink Disposable partnered with Woman Made, an event hosted by Asbury Park Bazaar and Babes in Business. Woman Made featured female entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders. Through sponsorships and collaborations, ReThink Disposable and Woman Made hosted 500 attendees at the 100 percent plastic free event. Water refill stations were set up and beverages were served in souvenir wine glasses and stainless steel pint cups. Food was served with paper napkins. ReThink Disposable also set up a table to answer questions and distribute educational flyers on “How to Host a Low Waste Event”.

The peak of Asbury Park’s season was marked by Indian Summer Music Festival (September 22-24). It is hosted at Anchor’s Bend Restaurant, and includes Asbury Park Bazaar with over 40 craft vendors and a weekend of camping on the beach. Music festivals are huge sources of throwaway garbage, so ReThink Disposable partnered with event organizers to provide reusable stainless cups, water refill stations, and an education table and video to help green the event. The reusable stainless steel pint glasses were a crowd favorite, a deal made even sweeter with a dollar off beverage refills. In addition, the festival was a “Straws By Request Only” event.

In the coming year, Clean Water Action will work with Jersey Shore restaurants to implement ReThink Disposable programs to help them go green, save money and reduce waste. The program has also hired a new North Jersey organizer that will help expand the program in the Montclair and Newark areas. Recently, a permanent ReThink Disposable sign was placed in historic Military Park, a 6-acre city park that serves as the central downtown gathering space for the Newark community and its visitors to enjoy whether for a game of chess or an outdoor cultural event. The educational impacts will be incredible: located next to the park are the New Jersey Historical Society, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Robert Treat Center, and Burg, a casual restaurant.

The Problem - Our Throwaway Lifestyle

Garbage CanThe United States represents 5% of the world’s population, yet consumes about a quarter of the planet’s resources. Much of this is a result of our “throw away” lifestyle, whereby many products are used once and then thrown away forever. This started in the 1950s when the plastics and chemical industries sold the American public on the convenience of single-use disposable items.

Decades later, the throwaway lifestyle has led to packaging waste (mostly plastic) making up 30% of American household trash. In 2011, the average American produced 4.4 pounds of household garbage per day, twice as much as in 1960. This linear approach to resource consumption has big impacts for our communities, the marine environment and even how our taxpayer dollars are spent.

Take the Pledge to Reduce Single-Use! 

Join the Reuse Revolution - Ten Things You Can Do Graphic. Credit: ESDesign / Clean Water ActionJoin the Reuse Revolution! There are so many things you can do to reduce your disposables footprint. Make a pledge to continue doing the ones you already do, and choose the new actions you are willing to commit to. Click here to take the pledge.

Action 1: Bring your own shopping bag.

Action 2: Reduce the use of plastic bags for produce & bulk items

Action 3: Bring your own food container and utensils.

Action 4: Carry a reusable water bottle.

Action 5: Pack a waste-free lunch.

Action 6: Bring your own cup.

Action 7: Slow down and dine in.

Action 8: Say no to disposable straws.

Action 9: Avoid heavily packaged foods.

Action 10: Share these tips with friends!

Recycling is Only Part of the Solution

Many people forget that reduce and reuse come before recycling in the 3Rs of waste management (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle). While recycling is certainly important, there is often too much focus on diverting single-use disposables from the landfill by recycling or composting instead of stopping this waste before it starts. These materials are resource intensive to produce, manufacture and recycle – overall packaging and single-use products represent an unsustainable use of precious resources (oil, trees, energy, water).

As reliance on single-use disposables has increased, recycling rates have not been able to keep up. In US, 2.4 million tons of plastic were recycled in 2010, which sounds great until you realize that that’s only 8% of the plastic generated.

ReThink Disposable for Businesses

ReThink Disposable is a free technical assistance program that helps food businesses implement best practices to reduce waste and cut costs by minimizing disposable product usage.

Whether you are a caterer, a mobile food vendor, or a restaurant, ReThink Disposable program can:

  • Make recommendations to help your business reduce waste from disposable packaging
  • Purchase some reusable products to help you implement the recommendations (Based on available funding)
  • Measure and report back to you the amount of waste you reduce and your annual cost savings
  • Recognize and promote your business within the community

The following conditions are required for participation:

  • Implement recommended changes within an agreed upon timeline
  • Provide information in a timely manner that allows ReThink Disposable to track and document the progress

ReThink Disposable is a three step process:

  1. Conduct a baseline inventory of the quantity and costs of the disposable products used by your business
  2. Implement recommended practices to reduce the use of disposable food serviceware
  3. Conduct a follow-up inventory to measure reductions and cost savings

If you are a business and are interested in participating in the program, please contact us at or 732-963-9714.

Sample Best Management Practices to Reduce Food and Beverage Packaging

  • Eliminate non-necessary disposable items or make available upon request only (i.e. straws, drink stirrers, toothpicks, etc.)
  • Make optional disposable items self-serve (drink and container lids, hot cup sleeves, napkins in a one at a time dispenser)
  • Use bulk condiments, seasonings and sweeteners – no packets
  • Use reusable dishware for on-site dining (cups, plates, bowls, portion cups, cutlery, etc.)
  • Offer and advertise reusable cup incentive
  • Offer and advertise reusable container incentive
  • Establish staff policies and training (always ask for here or to go, ask first for disposables such as bags and receipts)
  • Implement customer education and engagement
  • Eliminate excess packaging

ReThink Disposable is funded by a grant through the Northeast Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) and partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Trash Free Waters initiatives. To find out more, visit