With the aim of alleviating costs for restaurants and reducing plastic waste, a Los Angeles city ordinance took effect Monday making disposable foodware, including utensils and napkins, available at restaurants only when requested by customers.

The ordinance, which was approved by the City Council in April, applies to 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 violations, 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.

“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,” said Krekorian. “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% to 300% 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,” said Koretz.

“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.

“This is another critical step forward for our movement to phase out single-use plastics, and an extension of the straws-on-request ordinance we enacted in 2019,” said Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who chairs the Council’s committee on Energy, Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and the Los Angeles River.

“This ordinance helps both the environment and our economy. By focusing on education and changing people’s behavior, we can achieve sustainable success in the long run. We’re also helping small businesses, who spend billions of dollars a year on disposable products.”

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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