A new Los Angeles ordinance that bans automatically giving out plastic eating utensils unless the customer specifically asks for them went into effect on Monday, with the city becoming the largest city in the world to have such a law in the books.
The ordinance was first proposed earlier this year by LA Councilmen Paul Krekorian and Paul Koretz. Both Councilmen brought forth the bill to reduce plastic usage in the city, as well as to cut down costs in the city. Koretz specifically noted in the proposal that having plastic utensils being a solely “on demand” option, businesses save between $3,000 and $21,000 a year and that banning them would even have an effect on fossil fuel usage.
“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,” said Koretz in January when introducing the ordinance proposal.
The rise is plastic utensil usage during the pandemic with the rise in take out orders and a need of more disposable options to fight the spread of COVID-19 was also noted, with Council members expressing worry about the rise of plastic pollution as a result.
“The casual disposal of tons of plastic utensils has severely affected our beautiful coastline,” added Councilman Krekorian earlier this year. “This action will help us gain a measure of control over what has become an environmental catastrophe.”
The ordinance was approved in April, with a start date on November 15th. According to the ordinance, restaurants with more than 26 employees will be affected first, with all plastic utensil dispensers being removed, and plastic utensils not being included in take out orders unless requested by the customer. Enforcement of the ordinance will not start until January, after which restaurants will receive 2 warnings followed by $25 fines for each violation, with collective fines not exceeding more than $300 per year. Restaurants with fewer than 26 employees will fall under the ordinance starting in April 2022.
Plastic utensil ban now in effect in LA
Plastic reduction advocates praised the ordinance taking effect on Monday, with supporters echoing the reasons the Councilmen gave in their proposal earlier this year.
“I call this a triple win,” said Sheila Morovati, the founder of Habits of Waste, the non-profit that assists in plastic bans in Southern California, in a statement on Monday. “It’s a win for the planet, a win for the customers who don’t have to have their junk drawers filled with all this plastic and a win for the restaurants and their bottom line.”
However, restaurant owners had a mixed reaction on Monday. While many agreed with reducing waste and costs, especially post-pandemic, others predicted that the ordinance would likely only anger customers who didn’t know to ask for utensils and could lead to a decline in business to restaurants outside of LA who still include them.
“A plastic fork, knife, spoon, or spork seems like such a small thing to care about,” explained Donald Pressman, a restaurant owner in the San Fernando Valley. “But for people ordering to places that don’t have silverware or are sending to offices where they are needed, or through a bunch of other scenarios, it really is a sticking point. It’s an added hassle, and I suspect neighboring cities like Burbank or Glendale or Pasadena will see small bumps in takeout orders as a result.”
“It’s the little things to customers that have them come back, not just good food and prices. And we’ll probably see that happen.”
Los Angeles now joins several other Californian cities to have enacted similar utensil bans since 2018, including Davis, Malibu, and San Luis Obispo. LA also now joins several other major cities nationwide with the restaurant utensil ban, including Seattle and Honolulu.
Other cities in California are expected to follow LA’s ban in the next few years, including San Francisco, which has had some plastic bans in the past few years.
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