In an effort to alleviate some financial burdens on Los Angeles restaurants and reduce plastic waste, two Los Angeles City Councilmen introduced a motion Wednesday to make plastic utensils, napkins and salt packets only available when requested by restaurant customers.
The motion was introduced by Councilmen Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian.
“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,” Koretz said.
“Many delivery apps or websites already have a check box to opt-in if you want plastic utensils and napkins, we think they all should do it, save the restaurants some money, and the rest of us from having to deal with all the waste. An opt-in is a win-win for all — saving restaurants money while avoiding waste, especially during COVID-19.”
A report from the International Waste Association estimated that the amount of wasted single-use foodware and accessory items has increased about 250% to 300% during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people pickup food and dine at home.
Los Angeles restaurants often give out plastic utensils, straws and condiments with each order automatically, according to Koretz’ office.
“The casual disposal of tons of plastic utensils has severely affected our beautiful coastline,” Krekorian said. “This action will help us gain a measure of control over what has become an environmental catastrophe.”
The motion 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. “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 motion was also praised by activists with the Surfrider Foundation and Heal The Bay.
“This motion represents a small but critical step in the city’s effort to confront the nexus of plastic pollution, public health and climate justice,” Surfrider Foundation Los Angeles Manager Graham Hamilton said.
Emily Parker, coastal and marine scientist for Heal the Bay, shared concerns about the increase in single-use plastics during the pandemic.
“Switching to an ‘upon request’ model for to-go accessories like utensils and straws — items that are often unwanted and unused — reduces unnecessary, harmful plastic waste and saves restaurants money,” she said.
The motion 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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