Disposable dishware is a popular choice when feeding large groups at parties and community events, but more often than not it generates a lot of waste. In order to curb the use of plastic, paper, and Styrofoam dishware at events, and support their zero-waste goals, the city of Palo Alto launched the Zero Waste Party Pack (ZWPP) initiative in 2012. The ZWPPs are designed to cater to a group of 24 and include a set of reusable plastic dishware, metal utensils, cloth napkins, cleaning instructions, and a durable container for transport and storage. Each set cost less than $300 to assemble and the first five years of the program have only cost the city about $20,000 — in addition to a marginal amount of staff time — with the majority of that cost going toward promotion and outreach.
The 22 “Party Packs” are distributed throughout the city and are hosted by volunteer Zero Waste Block Leaders. Any resident of Palo Alto can checkout a Party Pack by contacting a nearby block leader through the city’s website.
While capturing the use data can be a difficult task, the city confirmed that in 2016 the ZWPPs were loaned out at least 162 times and were used by 4,000 people. While this is only reducing a small amount of the total waste from events in Palo Alto, they feel as if the program is equally about waste and reuse education as it is about waste diversion and prevention.
Header image screenshot from the City of Palo Alto’s promotional material