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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Alhambra becomes first LA County city to ban unrequested single-use utensils

Alhambra becomes first LA County city to ban unrequested single-use utensils

by Sam Benson Smith
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The ordinance will go into effect on May 22.

If you’re looking for plastic tines in Alhambra, you’ll have to ask nicely come May.

On April 20, the city officially declared its eco-aimed single-use utensil initiative, which requires food establishments to only distribute “disposable foodware items” if requested by customers.

The restricted items, as outlined in Ordinance N.. O2M21-4783:

“Foodware Items include, condiment cups and packets, straws, utensils (forks, spoons, sporks, knives, chopsticks), drink stirrers, beverage spill plugs, napkins, and other drink or food accoutrements.”

The ordinance was passed in a unanimous 5-0 decision by the Alhambra City Council on April 12. On the same day, neighboring Pasadena approved of a similar measure, although a hard date for implementation is yet to be nailed down. LA County released a statement in February with eyes on a single-use utensil law this year.

“This common-sense ordinance will help our local restaurants save money while reducing the amount of plastic waste in our community,” said Alhambra Mayor Pérez. “I’m proud of Alhambra for being the first city in Los Angeles County to pass an ordinance like this.”

Courtesy: Terry Miller

In an emailed public comment read during the April 12 Alhambra City Council meeting, California Restaurant Association Director of Local Affairs David Juarez threw his support behind the bill:

“The ordinance aims to reduce the environmental impacts of disposable food accessories while still allowing the local restaurant community to continue operating as an essential service in the midst of a pandemic and beyond…The restaurant community shares the ongoing concern over unnecessary use of single-use products…We look forward to continuing to work with the city on the proposed food accessories upon request ordinance. ”

Juarez also emphasized it is “critical” to take into account the inner workings of restaurants in penning policy like Ordinance NO. O2M21-4783 to help “facilitate customer choice, eliminate customer inconvenience, frustration, and backlash toward employees.”

Alhambra’s ordinance leaned heavy on impact in its preamble, hammering home the negative environmental effects and the more individualized, habit-based downsides:

The practice of freely giving customers disposable foodware items encourages customers, retailers, and food vendors to pay little attention to the quantity of disposable packaging products they consume and the associated environmental impact.

Jason McGinnis, the manager of Charlie’s Trio Cafe in Alhambra, is on board with the ordinance.

“It’s a good thing for everybody,” McGinnis said. “It’s not an issue for us at all, it’s something we’re looking forward to having the city implement.”

And if the city were to ban were to single-use utensils entirely? McGinnis doesn’t view it as a high hurdle to clear.

“I think it would be very easy to adjust,” McGinnis said. “There’s a lot of alternatives to single-use, utensils that we use here ourselves. So, it won’t be a big issue for us and it shouldn’t be a big issue for other restaurants.”

According to a 2020 UCLA study on plastic waste in LA County, single-use plastic utensils are particularly tough to tackle in the larger recycling ecosystem, because most materials recovery facilities (MCF) are not equipped to process the items. Nearly one in five pieces of trash nationwide is a single-use item, per LA County.

Alhambra’s ordinance is a step in the right direction, a first cut at the root of the problem.

Read the full ordinance below.

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