2022 Plastic Ban Laws: What Restaurants Need to Know About Their (Dis)use of Plastics

Aug 18, 2022

In April 2021, Los Angeles City Council approved a law that went into effect last November to ban the use of plastic at all restaurants and bars unless requested by the customer. This ban aims to reduce pollution and single-use plastic products waste as restaurants switch to environmentally-friendly reusables.

The ordinance bans:

  • Expanded polystyrene products like styrofoam cups, plates, and coolers
  • Single-use plastic items like straws, containers, plates, bowls, cutlery, trays, and utensils
  • Disposable food ware like napkins

What does this mean? Any dine-in facility will no longer use disposable plasticware for dine-in or take-out customers, except when requested. Any restaurants or bars that violate this ban can receive $100 per day violation fines, up to $1,000 yearly.

plastic ban

Why Plastic Ban Ordinances?

Banning plastic waste is a necessary step toward reducing plastic waste. For example, 23% of landfill waste in the United States is comprised of plastic containers and food ware. Plastic waste also gets into our oceans, coastlines, and roadways, especially since the pandemic when the amount of take-out containers grew by almost 300%.

Plus, it’s proven that plastic bans work! Studies suggest that there is a 70% reduction in plastic bag usage in California, which led to a further reduction in straws, utensils, take-out containers, and bottles. Since the United States produces the most plastic globally, we should take steps to stop using single-use plastic.

While the ordinance only applies to certain areas of LA, it’s still an important step toward inspiring the rest of the nation to incorporate essential change. Turning the tide against the sea of plastic waste is increasingly necessary for humanity and the world itself. Best of all, Los Angeles is among other cities and states that have taken steps to ban plastic bags, plastic straws, and expanded polystyrene products!

Bans of Single-Use Plastic Items in the U.S.

Los Angeles isn’t the only city that passed a Single-Use Plastic Ban; the City of Sausalito passed a ban on June 11, 2019.  This ban prohibits single-use plastic ware like straws, containers, bags, utensils, and more at restaurants and encourages the use of non-plastic alternatives.

Some cities and counties have taken on a plastic straw ban in states with no legislation, like Miami Beach, South Carolina, Charleston, and numerous cities in California, D.C., and Florida. On top of that, more than 100 municipalities and cities have banned Expanded Polystyrene besides Los Angeles, including New York City, Seattle, Miami Beach, and San Diego.

The Plastic Bag Ban: the Drive toward Bag Waste Reduction

Currently, there is no federal legislation addressing plastic waste; it is up to states and cities to take the initiative. Eight states have banned single-use plastic bags including California, Delaware, Connecticut, Maine, Hawaii, Oregon, New York, and Vermont. Many believe that a plastic bag ban law is necessary in the face of the dangers posed to the environment by the ongoing waste of plastic bags.

In 2015, nearly 730,000 tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps were manufactured in the United States, but more than 87% of those items are never recycled and end up as waste within our environment. It also takes 1000 years for a plastic bag to break down; even worse, plastic bags don’t completely break down over that time. They photo-degrade, becoming micro-plastics and absorbing toxins – further polluting the environment. Additionally, plastic leachates from bags hinder the growth of a vital microorganism, Prochlorococcus, a marine bacterium that provides 1/10 of the world’s oxygen.

These worrying statistics lead many to believe that the time for a widespread ban against all plastics is now – or the waste in and damage to the environment will be irrevocable. Thus, some organizations have taken the charge to get a comprehensive plastic ban to Washington D.C. In the Presidential Plastics Action Plan, over 600 organizations and thousands of petitioners request that President Biden pass a new federal law that will ban the use of single use plastics. The plan has 8 main action items – one being the suspension and denial of any permit or license for new and expanded plastic production facilities. According to these petitioners, bag waste reduction is not just a lofty goal, but a biological imperative.

As climate change becomes increasingly hard to ignore and the pandemic made many of us aware of the fragility of the world around us, it seems clear that environmentally-friendly green alternatives are a necessary approach. Plastic pollution must be addressed and replaced with compostable products. Plastic bans will likely spread throughout the United States, so restaurants should consider non-plastic food ware alternatives to stay prepared.

Alternatives to Banned Plastic

So if all plastic items end up banned, what are the alternatives to plastic that restaurants can embrace? Instead of delivering food in single-use plastic carryout bags, implement a program that distributes and promotes paper carryout bags or reusable plastic bags. Instead of plastic straws, try stainless steel straws, bamboo straws, paper straws, or even pasta straws. Instead of plastic utensils, your restaurant can use bamboo utensils or chopsticks. When using paper alternatives to plastics, try to source products from mostly or entirely recycled or compostable paper. Not only will your embrace of eco-friendly alternatives save the environment from the harmful effects of plastic waste, but it will also show your customers that you truly care about this beautiful, blue globe we all live on.