California restaurants must stop distributing plastic utensils and condiments to everyone

The long-standing question in many restaurants: “Do you want fries with that?” Could soon be joined by a new one: “You want plastic with that?

Late Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed nine environmental bills aimed at reducing waste, toxic chemicals and plastic waste.

Among them, a measure that prohibits restaurants and food delivery services from distributing forks, knives, spoons, straws, chopsticks, or even packages of plastic ketchup and mustard, unless customers do not. ask. The goal is to end the practice of restaurant workers automatically throwing plastic cutlery and condiments into take-out bags – items that are often thrown away when people return home.

The law project, AB 1276, written by Congresswoman Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles, is the latest attempt by California lawmakers to reduce plastic pollution and other debris in rivers, streams and the ocean.

“There has been a huge increase in take-out food during the pandemic,” said Nick Lapis, director of advocacy for Californians Against Waste, a nonprofit group in Sacramento. “The norm was that you give people disposable utensils when you feed them, but if we eat them at home, it just doesn’t make sense anymore. People have metal cutlery at home.

The bill was supported by the Sierra Club, the Surfrider Foundation, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation and other environmental groups.

The California Restaurant Association took a neutral stance after working with supporters on several changes as the bill made its way through the legislature. The association called the measure a “bill with good intentions” and said “it advances a cause we can all support: waste reduction.”

Effective June 1, 2022 at the latest, new statewide law allows restaurant warnings for the first two violations, and a fine of $ 25 for each day of violation thereafter, without exceed $ 300 per year.

“It’s the lowest fruit,” Lapis said. “If you don’t even want the disposable plastic item, you don’t have to get it without asking. It doesn’t take anything away from those who want it, but it takes away what people don’t ask for.

The measure allows restaurants to continue to offer condiments in bulk, such as ketchup and mustard, as well as plastic or metal utensils in refillable containers.

Some Sacramento Republicans opposed the bill.

“Restaurants have been one of the industries hardest hit by COVID-19,” Republican State Senate Leader Scott Wilk wrote to Newsom last month. “Forced closings, outdoor seating, and minimal indoor capacity have left many restaurants on the brink. The addition of warrants and the imposition of fines at this time, as proposed in this bill, would make it all the more difficult to restore these companies. “

Plastic pollution is a growing problem in California and around the world. From 1988 to 2017, volunteers at the annual California Coastal Cleanup Day picked up 1.9 million straws, utensils, cups and plates sourced from state beaches, streams and rivers.

Half of the plastic that has ever existed on Earth has been manufactured since 2002. Only 9% of the plastic sold each year in the United States is recycled. Up to 13 million tonnes every year it ends up in the world’s oceans – the equivalent of a full garbage truck dumped into the sea every minute – where it kills fish, birds, sea turtles, whales and dolphins that eat it or get entangled in it.

In 2016, California voters approved a statewide voting measure, Proposition 67, to ban single-use plastic grocery bags, although the measure continues to allow them for meat. , bread, produce, bulk foods and perishable items.

In recent years, environmental groups have unsuccessfully pushed the state legislature to sweep away new laws that would require companies that make plastic packaging – from fast food containers to packaging with toys and other products in it. ‘inside cardboard boxes – to take back materials and set up recycling programs.

Rejected, they qualified a measure in August for the November 2022 statewide poll. If approved by voters, the measure would also ban most foam food packaging in California.

Among the other bills signed by Newsom:

SB 343 by Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) would ban companies from using the “hunt the arrows” recycling logo on products unless they are recycled in communities where more than 60% of Californians live. The measure that will likely lead to only plastic No.1 and No.2 still being allowed to be labeled as recyclable. Other types of plastics now carry the logo, but there are few markets for recycling them. And even though residents dutifully place them in blue recycling containers, they are often thrown into landfills when recycling markets cannot be found for them.

AB 881 by Congresswoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) prohibits exports of mixed plastic waste to other countries from being considered “recycled” by cities and state officials under state laws requiring that 50% of waste is diverted from landfills. After China stopped importing plastic waste in 2017, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia took it, but some areas were overwhelmed by the volume and burned or dumped it, leading some to end up in the ocean.

AB 962 by Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) removes the requirement that single-use glass bottles be crushed for recycling, which instead will allow them to be washed and refilled by beverage companies according to guidelines Health Care Department approved by the State Department of Resource Recycling and Recovery.

“By reducing plastic pollution at the source and increasing the market share of refillable beverage bottles, California is taking an important step in cultivating the disposable economy that pollutes our planet and towards a more sustainable way of life. Said Ashley Blacow-Draeger, spokesperson for environmental group Oceana.

Cindy Harrington of Antioch picks up trash at Fulton Shipyard Road in Antioch on Coastal Cleanup Day September 16, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Roni Gehlke)
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