Jerry Swider & Sandrine Thompson, City of Arcata
The City of Arcata is committed to reducing waste from single-use disposable foodware. The Arcata City Council adopted Ordinance No. 1527 in February of 2020 to establish regulations related to single-use disposable foodware items. It is meant to reduce the number of single-use plastic items that contribute to street litter, marine pollution, wildlife injuries, greenhouse gas emissions, and landfill waste. The ordinance is applicable to all food service establishments including, but not limited to restaurants, grocery stores, bars, cafes, food vendors, and cafeterias. The City has conducted outreach in the past and is currently partnering with Zero Waste Humboldt on outreach to food service establishments to assist in this transition.
The single-use disposable foodware ordinance requires that disposable foodware be composed of fiber-based compostable material and accessory foodware must only be provided upon request, or at a self-serve station. Examples of accessory foodware include, but are not limited to: straws, stirrers, napkins, cup sleeves, spill plugs, and more. All single-use disposable foodware, including accessory foodware, must be fiber-based compostable and free of poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFAS). Fiber-based materials that have no bioplastic (PLA) or wax lining are also compliant with the ordinance. Examples of this include materials such as paper, wood, sugarcane, bamboo, wheat and pasta.
Items that do not have suitable alternatives on the market are exempt from the requirement to be fiber-based compostable. These materials include: hot liquid containers, cold cups, cup lids, soufflé cups (small cups typically used for samples or sauces), cutlery, grocery store pack downs (kitchen prepared sides, sauces, and additions intended to have a longer shelf life than ready-to-eat take-out), and containers used for storing ready-to-eat hot food often found at hot bars within grocery stores. Any non-conforming disposable foodware item to be used in lieu of a conforming item – whether through exemption or waiver – must be recyclable through the City of Arcata Recyclable collection program. In addition, businesses can request a waiver for certain materials if the owner or operator demonstrates that application of this section would create undue hardship or practical difficulty for that establishment. Waiver requests can be submitted to Arcata’s Environmental Services Department.
The ordinance also allows for customer-owned containers, which are clean, dry, and constructed for reuse, to be filled by food services establishments. Examples of suitable materials include containers made of durable materials such as stainless steel, rigid plastic, glass or ceramic. As per AB 619, the health and safety code allows for customers to bring their own containers that are clean and appropriate for use to be filled for take-out.
Food vendors may refuse any containers that are cracked, chipped, corroded, appear inappropriate in size, material, or condition for the intended use, or that appear unsanitary or soiled. If customers bring suitable reusable foodware for to-go food, they will receive a $0.25 discount on their order. Customers who utilize the non-reusable containers and accessory foodware from food vendors should expect a $0.25 fee on their order. The fees and discounts for reusables are on a per-order basis and customers will only receive one per order, even on orders including multiple items.
How To Help Reduce Single-Use Disposables:
- Support your local restaurants by communicating ahead of time about which containers are appropriate for your order.
- Carry appropriate reusables with you when you go out to eat or attend a festival. Always be prepared.
- Spread the word to your friends and family and encourage them to bring reusables with them too.
Although effective March 5, 2020, the ordinance provisions enforcement date was delayed from January 1, 2021, until July 1, 2021. The fee and discount portion of the ordinance remain under delayed enforcement until January 2023. All other aspects of the ordinance are fully enforceable.
For additional questions, please contact the Environmental Services Department at (707) 822–8184 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For a list of frequently asked questions please visit the City of Arcata website: Single-Use-Foodware-Facts (cityofarcata.org)