Last evening, the West Hollywood City Council unanimously passed a motion to eventually ban local eateries’ use of all non-compostable single-use foodware containers and accessories. The effort, led by councilmembers John Erickson and Mayor Pro-Tem Sepi Shyne, follows a trend adopted by other area cities and the City and County of San Francisco, among others.
City Staff, who presented a comprehensive report addressing the problem and proposing a phased-in solution, was supported by more than 20 pages of attachments. Also supporting the ban were environmental and labor allies including the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, and Unite HERE Local 11, which represents hospitality workers.
The ban would include non-compostable utensils (including chop sticks), cups and condiment cups, straws, cocktail and other stirrers, splash sticks, containers, lids and bowls.
The City Staff recommendation comprised of a three-phase roll out:
1. June 1, 2022 – State law (AB 1276) would go into effect requiring all food facilities to only provide single-use foodware accessories upon request to a consumer.
2. June 1, 2023 – City ordinance would go into effect requiring food facilities to only offer compostable single-use foodware accessories to consumers. At this time, this requirement will only apply to employers that employ more than 500 employees in the United States, regardless of where those employees are employed in the United States, and all franchisees associated with a franchisor or a network of franchises with franchisees that employ more than 500 employees in the aggregate in the United States.
3. June 1, 2024 – City ordinance would go into effect requiring all food facilities to only offer compostable single-use foodware accessories to consumers.
In response, Shyne proposed an amendment that would quicken the compliance period for all food service employers to meet the June 1, 2023 deadline and to add to the definition of foodware accessories to include cup lids and sleeves, spill plugs and toothpicks. These additional items were accepted within a definition of “foodware accessories” as proposed by councilmember John D’Amico.
The June 1st deadline this year allows for a 90-day compliance window staff proposed to allow local businesses time to purchase compostable products. Public comment slightly favored allies of the ban, with business advocates chiming in that small businesses in particular have been burdened by supply chain delays and concerns it would affect the transition. Marquita Thomas, Executive Director of the L.A. LGBT Chamber of Commerce, even proposed to double the one-year deadlines set up in the proposed phase-in approach , claiming, “Addressing plastic waste is imperative … but environmental policies are only effective if they’re practical.”
However, a representative of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club, Volunteer Chair Barbara Hensley, complimented staff, saying they, “went to the end user of the single-use items and asked, ‘What can we do? How can we make this work with you?’” She also shot back at the excuse that supply chain issues should be an impediment to the ban, stating, “I have a strong feeling supply chain issues affect the single-use plastics as well.”
In the end, councilmember Lindsey Horvath sought balance, stating, “We’re not doing this as punishment [of businesses], but because it is better for all of us.” Horvath, along with colleagues Shyne, Erickson, and Mayor Lauren Meister, disclosed either meeting with or corresponding with the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club prior to their decision.