A New Bill Bans Plastic Utensils with Food Delivery Except Upon Request
By Rachel Trachten
Ever opened a bag of takeout food to find plastic utensils, paper napkins, and tiny packets of ketchup and mustard you don’t need and didn’t ask for? That will be happening a lot less once California enacts legislation requiring restaurants and delivery platforms to provide single-use food accessories only when requested by the consumer. AB-1276, Single-use Food Accessories, passed in California’s State Assembly in June and is now being amended in the Senate.
This legislation was inspired by the nonprofit Habits of Waste, whose founder, Sheila Morovati, spearheaded the 2018 ban on single-use plastic straws and cutlery in the City of Malibu. Through its 2019 #CutOutCutlery campaign, Habits of Waste persuaded delivery services DoorDash, Postmates, Uber Eats, and Grubhub to change the default settings for plastic cutlery to an opt-in rather than an opt-out model. They’re currently working with Chipotle and other major restaurant chains to encourage compliance with this model. In addition to its positive environmental impact, the reduction in single-use foodware items cuts costs for restaurants.
#CutOutCutlery has also inspired similar legislation in cities across the United States, including Culver City, Denver, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. In Massachusetts, there’s a statewide bill calling for plastic cutlery and other foodware accessories to be provided only upon request. Morovati praised the passage of AB 1276 in the State Assembly, saying, “We applaud the California State Legislature for taking a significant step in dramatically reducing the amount of single-use plastic that ends up as unwanted waste and litter in our environment. This is a stellar example of how a system can be modified to change behavior, ultimately creating a new norm that automatically reduces waste and increases sustainability.”
Habits of Waste also recently launched #ShipNaked as part of Plastic-free July. This campaign asks online shopping giants Amazon, Walmart, and Target to reduce their use of excessive plastic, paper, and boxes when shipping packages. According to Morovati, if these three businesses stop using unnecessary plastic and boxes packed within boxes, millions of pounds of plastic and cardboard waste would no longer be generated each year.
Morovati also founded Crayon Collection, which she launched in 2009 by upcycling used crayons (many from restaurants) that were headed for landfills. Instead, the crayons were given to underserved children. Today, Crayon Collection brings not just crayons, but artists, art education, and sustainability practices into preschools and elementary schools worldwide.