Single-use plastic waste is the target of a new Los Angeles ordinance that went into effect November 15, 2021.

Approved by the City Council back in April, LA’s new city ordinance targets plastic waste from restaurants and other food venues. It’s a simple one, making disposable foodware available to customers only by request.

What this means is no more self-service foodware dispensers, no more plastic forks automatically included in your takeout. By making these things available by request only, it both reduces the amount that wind up thrown away used or unused and reduces the cost to the venues.

The ordinance includes takeaway containers, utensils, straws, drink lids, and napkins. So far, it applies only to larger venues with more than 26 employees, but it will expand to all venues in April 2022.

The city has done a great deal to make the new ordinance not a burdensome one. There are fines for facilities found to be violating it, but they’re pocket change. $25 per violation, not to exceed $300 a year.

While forays into reducing single-use plastic waste were made before 2020, the International Waste Association estimates that sales, and therefore disposal, of those products have increased by between two and three times during the pandemic, as dining pivoted to being mostly take-out.

“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 Los Angeles Councilman Paul Krekorian, who helped write the ordinance. “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.”

The councilman has previously said that California restaurants who had already voluntarily switched to a by-request-only model saved between $3,000 and $21,000 a year.

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