Starting next year, Washington businesses can no longer automatically include single-use food service items like straws and utensils with food orders.
While customers can request individual items or pick them up at self-serve stations, the move is a part of a new state law meant to reduce single-use plastics waste. The new rule is a part of a set of laws signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in May, aimed to reduce single-use plastics and increase recycled content.
“This law nudges people to help reduce unnecessary waste,” Washington Department of Ecology solid waste program manager Laurie Davies said in a statement.
- Forks, spoons, knives, chopsticks and other utensils
- Cocktail picks, straws and coffee splash sticks and stirrers
- Condiment packets or sauce cups
- Cold cup lids (except for those given at drive-through windows or large events)
According to the Washington state Department of Ecology, single-use food service wares are a major contaminant in the state’s recycling systems. Earlier this year, the state also enacted a single-use plastic bag ban.
The city of Seattle also requires food businesses — including food trucks, coffee shops, grocery stories and restaurants — to hand out recyclable or compostable utensils, containers, cups and other disposable food service items.
The new law does not apply to food service products provided to residents, patients or customers in Washington health care facilities, including state hospitals, long-term care facilities, hospice, senior nutrition programs and nursing homes, Meals on Wheels, and services to individuals with developmental disabilities.
Under the new requirements, multiple utensils cannot be bundled or packaged together so that a customer is unable to take just the desired utensil.
The Department of Ecology plans to increase compliance through education and outreach.