Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, Washington restaurants will no longer automatically include single-use food service items like utensils, condiments, and straws with food orders. A new state law restricts the use of these items and prohibits packaged bundles of single-use items in order to reduce waste and litter – although customers can still request individual items if needed. This law is part of the broader waste reduction legislative package passed in 2021.
Single-use food serviceware items covered by the new requirements include:
- utensils (knives, forks, spoons, chopsticks)
- cocktail picks, splash sticks, and stirrers
- condiment packets, sachets, or sauce cups and
- cold cup lids except those provided at drive-through windows or events with over 2,500 people.
Under the new law, to receive a single-use food serviceware item, customers must request it, confirm their choice when asked, or select the item they want from a self-serve station. “Automatically including disposable silverware, straws and condiments with every order creates a huge amount of waste, much of which ends up littering our roads and damaging our environment,” said Laurie Davies, manager of the Solid Waste program at the Washington Department of Ecology. “This law nudges people to help reduce unnecessary waste.”
Nearly one trillion single-use food service products are disposed or littered each year in the United States, according to a 2021 Upstream report. Single-use food serviceware items are also a major contaminant in Washington’s recycling system that decreases the value of recycled materials. Reducing their use will protect the state’s rivers and streams, help the recycling system run more efficiently, and contribute to a growing culture of waste reduction and reuse.
Customers are encouraged to bring their own durable, reusable food containers and utensils to help reduce single-use waste and to create habits that keep those items clean and available for use on the go.
Visit ecology.wa.gov/serviceware for information, tools, resources, and detailed compliance requirements for Washington’s single-use serviceware law. Local businesses are encouraged to use it as a resource to inform staff and customers about the new law. For more tips on how to reduce your plastic use, visit the Plastic Free Salish Sea website at www.plasticfreesalishsea.org.
Photo credit: WA Department of Ecology