LOS ANGELES—A Los Angeles city ordinance aimed at reducing plastic waste has expanded to all restaurants on Earth Day Friday, April 22, making disposable foodware, including utensils and napkins, available at all city restaurants and beverage facilities only when requested by customers.
The ordinance, which was approved by the city council in April 2021, first went into effect last November and only applied to food and beverage facilities with more than 26 employees.
Starting April 22, it expands to all food and beverage facilities.
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 are subject to a written notice for the first and second violations, followed by a $25 fine for each subsequent violation. A facility’s collective fines can not exceed $300 per calendar year.
Councilmen Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian led the charge for the ordinance.
“Larger restaurants in Los Angeles are now officially partners in the city’s effort to address the environmental catastrophe caused by the disposal of millions of pounds of plastic waste along our beautiful California coastline,” Krekorian said when it went into effect on Nov. 15. “Their participation is critical as we aggressively counter what has been a major contribution to the climate crisis: the distribution of unneeded and unwanted plastic goods to consumers.”
A report from the International Waste Association estimated that the amount of wasted single-use foodware and accessory items increased about 250 percent to 300 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people picked up food and dined at home.
“If we are to overcome the extreme climate challenges we face, we will have to alter or otherwise transform all our habits relating to fossil fuel products, including plastics, and our essential natural resources, like forests,” Koretz said in November. “Skipping the stuff to stop the frivolous waste of napkins and plasticware is another step forward as we work together towards a healthier future that can sustain us all.”
The councilman has previously said California restaurants that have already switched to by-request utensils have saved between $3,000 and $21,000 per year.
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.