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.
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
- Cold cup lids, except those provided at drive-through windows or events with fixed-seat capacity of at least 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.
Outreach toolkit available soon
Ecology plans to focus on education to increase compliance with the new law. The agency worked with a variety of partners to develop informational flyers and outreach material (in 17 languages) that will be available online as a downloadable toolkit before the law goes into effect. Anyone can print and share the material. Local governments, businesses and non-profits are encouraged to use it as a resource to inform staff and customers about the new law.
BYO – Bring Your Own
While lids, forks, ketchup packets and other items will be available upon request, customers are encouraged to bring their own durable, reusable food serviceware items to help reduce single-use waste. Ecology encourages people to explore sustainable options for reusable travel utensils, and develop habits that keep those items clean and available for use on the go.
Most Washingtonians quickly adapted to the state’s plastic bag ban earlier this year, and now bring reusable bags when they head to the store.
Visit ecology.wa.gov/serviceware for information, tools, resources, and detailed compliance requirements for Washington’s single-use serviceware law.