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LA County moves to ban single use plastics in food service

LA County moves to ban single use plastics in food service

NOTE TO EDITORS: Catalina Villegas, multimedia journalist and anchor, spoke with a local coastal and marine scientist about the environmental effects single-use plastics have on the environment. To see the video, click on the arrow.

LOS ANGELES, (CNS) In an attempt to reduce single-use plastics use, the Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday a preliminary ordinance that requires that all food-service containers and cups used by restaurants and food establishments in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County must be recyclable or compostable.

The ordinance would also prohibit retailers from selling expanded polystyrene (or Styrofoam) products such as coolers and packing materials. However, they must be encased with a durable material.

What You Need to Know

  • The board will approve the ordinance to ban single-use plastics in all food establishments and retail stores. It will be effective May 1, 2023 if approved.
  • It would apply to food trucks starting on Nov. 1, 2023 and farmers markets, caterers, and temporary food establishments starting on May 1, 20,24.
  • Violators could be fined up $100 per day or $1,000 per year.
  • CJ OBrien, Oceana’s environmental group, told the board that plastic waste is entering the marine environment in billions of pounds each year. This amount is expected to triple by 2040.

It would also be necessary for full-service restaurants that offer sit-down services to provide customers with reusable multiservice utensils.

The board approved the proposed ordinance on a 4-1 vote. Supervisor Kathryn Barger was not present. The ordinance must be returned to the board for a final vote. However, a date for that vote has not been set.

The ordinance, if approved by the board, would be effective on May 1, 2023 for all food establishments operating in a permanent location and all retail stores. It would be effective for food trucks on November 1, 2023 and for farmers markets, catering businesses, and temporary food facilities on May 1, 2024.

Violators could face a $100 per-day or $1,000 per-year fine.

The ordinance was supported by several environmental groups who cited the negative impact of plastics on local and global waste streams and on people’s health in general.

CJ OBrien, an Oceana representative, told the board that billions upon billions of pounds worth of plastic waste enters the marine environment every year. This amount is expected to triple by 2040.

She stated that marine animals are becoming entangled in plastics and noted that plastic is becoming a health problem for the human population.

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She stated that plastic has been found in our water and food as well as our bodies. Scientists are still trying to understand how this may affect our health.

Business groups opposed the ordinance. Valley Industry and Commerce Association representative told the board that there is no evidence that the ordinance will reduce waste but will increase costs. VICA estimates that 100 compostable forks will cost the same as 1,000 plastic ones.

Recognizing that the ordinance will have to be changed in business operations, the board approved a motion from Supervisors Janice Hahn & Hilda Solis asking for the county to launch a year-long outreach campaign and education campaign to prepare for its implementation. Under that campaign, county officials will educate business owners about the requirements and also compile a list of businesses that supply compostable/recyclable materials, while also monitoring supply chain issues that could impact the availability of the materials.

Hahn stated that she introduced the motion in order to ensure that businesses are supported. We want to make sure that they aren’t overburdened, and that they have all the tools they need to do this.

She said that we want to help them and give them the tools they need.

Hahn acknowledged that COVID-19 restrictions in the past two years have been difficult on restaurants and many were forced into closures, but she said that the new ordinance is important to keep plastic products from the waste stream.

Barger stated that the ordinance was not exempt from hospital cafeterias and snack bar, noting that food truck operators were given an extra six-month period to comply with the law. She also said she was concerned about whether the supply of compostable/recyclable materials would be able to keep up with demand created by the ordinance, and whether there will be sufficient composting companies willing to handle the increased volume of food-service materials.

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