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Los Angeles County Implements New Ordinance to Reduce Single-Use Plastic Waste

Restaurants and Food Facilities Required to Use Recyclable or Compostable Containers and Cutlery, with Fines for Noncompliance

Los Angeles County is implementing an ordinance starting today that requires all food-service containers, cups, dishes, and cutlery distributed by restaurants and food facilities in unincorporated areas to be recyclable or compostable. This will include cities like Marina Del Rey and comes after Culver City implemented a similar ordinance. 

The measure was approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in April 2022 to reduce plastic pollution, reduce landfill waste, and decrease reliance on harmful fossil fuels. The vote made Los Angeles County the largest municipality in the nation to take aggressive action against single-use plastics.

Full-service restaurants are required to use reusable food service ware for dine-in customers, and the sale or rental of single-use coolers, packaging, plastic peanuts, and pool toys (unless they are encased in durable material) is prohibited. Food facilities must begin complying with the ordinance today, while food trucks have an additional six months to comply. Operators who can demonstrate extreme financial hardship or an inability to serve food safely in alternative packaging may apply for waivers.

Enforcement will initially be complaint-based, with a focus on education and working with businesses to transition to sustainable takeout food ware. After the first year of implementation, the County will evaluate whether additional measures are needed to support businesses in reducing waste. Violations may be subject to fines of up to $100 per day, up to a maximum of $1,000 per year as a last resort.

According to studies, nearly 100 million plastic utensils are discarded across the United States each year, but only an estimated 15% of single-use plastic items in California are recycled. Most recycling facilities in greater L.A. do not accept food service ware of any kind because of their size and contamination, making it easier for producers to use fossil fuels to create “virgin plastic.” In contrast, New York City has spent more than $43 million in taxpayer funds each year to dispose of single-use plastics.

“California communities spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on litter cleanup and waste prevention programs,” said Rita Kampalath, acting Chief Sustainability Officer for Los Angeles County. “But these strategies cannot keep pace with the rapid proliferation of single-use items. This ordinance will save taxpayer dollars and free up dwindling land space.”

More than one million residents live in unincorporated Los Angeles County, which represents two-thirds of the County’s land. If you would like more information on this county policy, go here to read the County’s FAQ.

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