Local residents expressed support for an ordinance that would allow them to opt-out of receiving plastic dining ware when ordering take-out and deliver meals from local restaurants.
Under the proposed ordinance, which the City Council could instruct the city manager to prepare for enactment within 60 days, customers could decide whether or not to receive paper napkins, plastic knives, spoons, and forks as part of their order.
Billions of unused disposable food service ware accessories, including utensils, straws and condiment packets, are thrown away each year in the United States.
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.
And that appears to be what has local residents excited about the proposed ordinance.
“The ‘Skip the Stuff’ policy provides a simple solution to help make an impact on reducing takeout delivery waste at the local level,” Elizabeth Fife wrote in correspondence to the City Council.
“Supplying food ware accessories only upon request will be a cost-savings to businesses, consumers and the city. This measure makes sense — and has been effectively implemented by many other local governments, including our neighbor Alhambra. Please do the right thing and vote in favor of Skip the Stuff,” Fife wrote.
“Over the past five years, progress has stalled,” said Jazmine De La Torre. “We now generate almost 50% more waste than we did when the Zero Waste Plan was approved in 2013.”
The Zero Waste 2040 plan promotes reuse, recycling and conservation programs while emphasizing sustainability by considering the entire life-cycle of products, processes, and systems.
According to the plan, Zero Waste is not 100% recycling but shifts the focus to waste reduction, product redesign and elimination of wasteful practices. It is a framework for reducing generations of waste and maximizing diversion, not a strict tonnage goal.
According to the city’s website, Pasadena has already met and exceeded the state of California’s ambitious 50% diversion goal and achieved 73% diversion in 2010. This Zero Waste plan is anticipated to accomplish a minimum of 87 percent diversion, which sets Pasadena well on the path to Zero Waste.
In 2012, the city’s plastic ban, which applies to supermarkets, drug stores, liquor markets, and convenience stores, where recyclable paper bags are sold for 10 cents each, went into effect. The ban also covers farmers’ markets and other events sponsored by the city or held on city property.
The ban is intended to reduce landfill waste, conserve energy and resources, and promote sustainability.
The California Restaurant Association and city staff said they believe the plastic ware ordinance would lead to cost savings.
The waste may have increased during the pandemic with restaurants relying heavily on take-out and delivery orders for revenue.
According to a staff report, 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.
“This policy is a small but effective and impactful implementation to have restaurants ask customers whether they need utensils and napkins included in their to-go orders,” said Pilar Reynaldo.
“Most of us are going home where we have a drawer full of utensils. It is senseless to bring home something which is not needed,” Reynaldo wrote.