Nonprofit is Here to Help Bainbridge Restaurants Move from Plastic to Renewable Service Ware

Back in October* and December* of 2021, my co-blogger Kevin Dwyer wrote about the City of Bainbridge Island’s new ordinance that would require businesses to reduce plastic and single-use food service products. The first part of that ordinance went into effect on January 1, 2022. As part of this new ordinance, the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce partnered with the City, the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association and Bainbridge Island Zero Waste/Sustainable Bainbridge by creating the Bainbridge Business Ambassador program to survey effected businesses and determine their concerns and needs, as well assisting them in complying with the upcoming ordinance.

I was one of the ambassadors and found that many businesses had concerns about what sort of single-use products were available, how to obtain them and how to ensure they were actually made of completely recyclable materials. Many businesses shared their frustration with the unavailability and reliability of the products and companies that produced them. In addition, they expressed frustration at not being able to compost at their businesses due to the unavailability of a waste company to retrieve the composted material.

At the start of 2023, a new round of Waste Reduction measures will be activated, including a requirement that all Bainbridge Food and Beverage locations use re-usable items for ALL dine-in orders. If a business is using single-use items (plates, utensils, cups for condiments, etc.), they will all have to be replaced this year.

But now, help is here! Sustainable Bainbridge, in partnership with the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce has reached out to a California-based nonprofit that wants to help – as announced in the Chamber News weekly email newsletter (click here to subscribe for free):

Image courtesy of plasticfreerestaurants.orgPlastic Free Restaurants is a West Coast nonprofit with a mission to eliminate petroleum-based, single-use plastic from restaurants and schools by subsidizing the purchase of reusable replacements.

In short, they pay businesses to stop using plastic – but on Bainbridge, they can only do so until May 31st, 2022. 

This is a program ONLY available to business owners making the leap well-ahead of COBI’s ordinance that will make the change mandatory at the start of 2023.”

I decided to delve a bit deeper. is a 501(c)(3) which launched in 2020, and according to their website, their mission is to eliminate petroleum-based, single-use plastic from restaurants and schools by subsidizing the purchase of reusable replacements.

In addition, they are strictly an online entity and their overhead consists of insurance, website maintenance and credit card/payment processing fees. “We pay zero salaries and zero rent. In our first year, overhead expenses have remained below 5%.”  In other words, 95% of the donations they receive towards their mission goes to assisting businesses to achieve a zero-waste environment.

In short, the program rules are:

  1. Keep and submit at least 6 weeks of receipts from current purchasing of single-use petroleum-based items
  2. Purchase new, reusable replacements that are not petroleum-based (ie, metal, ceramic, bamboo, etc.) and submit the receipts
  3. Plastic Free Restaurants will reimburse the difference, up to $5 per piece.
  4. Repeat for all petroleum-based single-use products for dine-in, until they are all replaced
  5. There is no per-restaurant limit
  6. On the 1-year anniversary of your rebate, 10% of the first-year total can be claimed in order to replace damaged or lost reusable products
  7. There is no long application form, just an online way to submit your receipts

On their website FAQ page, they explain more about how their reimbursement program works, how using reusable tableware can save your business money, how to sign up, as well as other important information. In addition, they provide a “Resources for Restaurants” page, which provides links to finding products and composting facilities near you, as well as composting pick-up companies and much more.

“This effort is part of The Chamber and Sustainable Bainbridge’s ongoing work with the City and Downtown Association to help local businesses help our island through the Business Ambassador program in 2022,” explained Stefan Goldby, President and CEO of the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce.

*October 27, 2021: “City is Working with Business Community, Others in an Effort to Reduce Plastic and other Waste on the Island

*December 22, 2021 “New Business Regs – Going into Effect Jan. 1 – Aim to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce

Bainbridge Island Downtown AssociationSustainable BainbridgeZero Waste Bainbridge Island

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