Why you might not get plastic utensils next time you go to a California restaurant

The long-running question at many restaurants: “Do you want fries with that?” might soon be joined with a new one: “Do you want plastic with that?”

Late Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed nine environmental bills aimed at reducing litter, toxic chemicals and plastic waste.

Among them is a measure that prohibits restaurants and food delivery services from handing out plastic forks, knives, spoons, straws, chopsticks, even ketchup and mustard packets, unless customers request them. The goal is to end the practice of restaurant employees automatically tossing plastic cutlery and condiments in take-out bags — items that are often thrown away when people get home.

The bill, AB 1276, written by Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles, is the latest attempt by California lawmakers to reduce plastic pollution and other debris in rivers, creeks and the ocean.

“There’s been a huge increase in take-out food during the pandemic,” said Nick Lapis, director of advocacy for Californians Against Waste, a non-profit group in Sacramento. “The norm used to be that you give people disposable utensils when you give them food, but if we are eating it at home, it doesn’t make sense any more. People have metal cutlery at home.”

The bill was supported by the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, League to Save Lake Tahoe, Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation and other environmental groups.


Author Credit: Paul Rogers

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