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Council to Deliberate on Possible Food Service Ware On-Request Ordinance

‘Zero-Use’ trash adds to glut of non-recyclable plastic

Published on Monday, April 12, 2021 | 5:00 am

The City Council is expected to have the City Attorney prepare an ordinance that would give customers the chance to opt out of receiving paper napkins, plastic knives, spoons, and forks when they order take-out or delivery food from at local restaurants. 

The item garnered unanimous support when it was being considered by the council’s Municipal Service Committee. 

Several restaurants already allow customers to decline plastic utensils when ordering online.

According to city staff, the focus will be on education and outreach and citations will probably be rare. 

“Moving to an on-request model reduces waste and saves businesses money: it is a win-win for establishments, their patrons and the city,” the report states. 

The California Restaurant Association and city staff said they believe the ordinance would lead to cost savings, but the Chamber of Commerce opposed the idea when it came before the Municipal Services Committee.

“The no plastic/no straw mandate will lead to extra trips to tables for servers, which is time wasted that cannot be spared now,” according to Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paul Little. 

“How will the proposal impact those with full bar and cocktail service? Most cocktails are served with a stirrer that is currently made of plastic. I do not want to order an Old Fashioned and stir it with my finger or a spoon,” Little said. 

“Why now? Pasadena restaurants are reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he asked “Do you really need to burden them further at this time? Why not revisit the proposal in a couple of years when the industry has settled into whatever ‘normal’ may be?”

Billions of unused disposable food service ware accessories, including utensils, straws and condiment packets, are thrown away each year in the U.S. 

This type of “zero-use” trash clogs landfills, pollutes streets and waterways, and adds to the glut of non-recyclable plastic production, states a report to the council.

The council passed its first major zero waste ordinance in 2016 when it banned Styrofoam food and beverage containers.

With restaurants relying heavily on take-out and delivery orders for revenue during the pandemic, the report said most businesses currently provide disposable eating utensils, even when customers don’t ask for them. As a result, these items get thrown away without being used, since customers would normally eat in their homes where they have their own reusable utensils.

“I think one of the reasons this came up is the timing issue,” Councilmember Felicia Williams said during the committee meeting. “During COVID, with so much take-out, we are generating so much waste. I think there is an urgency. Maybe we could start the education and outreach early to get people to start doing it a little bit sooner.”

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