Customers now have to ask for plastic utensils, napkins at Los Angeles restaurants

The ordinance will make plastic utensils and napkins available to customers when requested.
LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Hoping to alleviate costs for restaurants and reduce plastic waste, a Los Angeles city ordinance takes effect Monday making disposable foodware, including utensils and napkins, only available at restaurants when requested by customers.

The ordinance, which was approved by the City Council in April, will take effect for food and beverage facilities with more than 26 employees. It will expand to all food and beverage facilities on April 22, 2022.

The ordinance prohibits facilities from having self-service disposable foodware dispensers and from providing or offering disposable foodware accessories to dine-in customers and take-out customers, except when requested. Facilities that violate the ordinance would be subject to a written notice for the first and second violation, followed by a $25 fine for each subsequent violation. A facility's collective fines would not exceed $300 per calendar year.

Councilmen Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian led the charge for the ordinance, and they celebrated its implementation at a morning event outside a Norms restaurant in Encino.

Koretz previously called the switch to on-request-only utensils an "easy, common sense requirement that we hope will help restaurants save money, help the city save money from unnecessary trash cleanups in our neighborhoods and help stop piling unused stuff in our already teeming landfills."

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McDonald's said the transition to new materials was a massive undertaking and that it sells over one billion toys each year.

He said California restaurants that have already switched to by-request utensils have saved between $3,000 and $21,000 per year.

"Knowing that fossil fuels go into producing each fork and knife and that trees are used to produce napkins makes me crazy when I'm just throwing them away," he said in a statement after introducing the motion on Jan. 13.

A report from the International Waste Association estimated that the amount of wasted single-use foodware and accessory items increased about 250% to 300% during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people picked up food and dined at home.

"The casual disposal of tons of plastic utensils has severely affected our beautiful coastline," Krekorian said in a statement after introducing the motion in January. "This action will help us gain a measure of control over what has become an environmental catastrophe."

The ordinance was praised by Andrea Leon-Grossman, who serves as climate action director for the environmental justice organization Azul, which focuses on ocean stewardship.

"Single-use waste is an environmental justice issue that needs to be addressed at the source," Leon-Grossman said in January. "We commend the L.A. City Council for introducing the motion to reduce waste by enacting an 'opt-in' model and look forward to working with the city to implement solutions that will help our city be more sustainable and equitable."

The ordinance is similar to the city's straws-on-request law that went into effect on April 22, 2019. That law bans all Los Angeles restaurants from automatically giving customers plastic straws.

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