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Restaurants’ use of plastic utensils would be limited under proposed Chicago ordinance

Restaurants’ use of plastic utensils would be limited under proposed Chicago ordinance

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Chicago diners may soon be on the hook to remember to order forks along with their appetizers.

Under an ordinance the City Council Environmental Protection Committee advanced Monday, people who want plastic utensils with their carry-out and delivery meals from local restaurants would need to request them.

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Restaurants would be required to either provide a self-service station for diners to pick up utensils, napkins, toothpicks, drink trays and other disposables themselves, or would have to ask people if they want them.

But straws, drink lids, Styrofoam takeout containers and cup sleeves for coffee would be exempted from the new rules, as would orders picked up at drive-thrus.

Supporters touted the change as an important way to lower the amount of plastic that ends up in the trash, while sparing restaurants struggling during the pandemic from having to immediately meet stricter rules like those in some other cities that would completely outlaw many plastic products.

“I firmly believe this ordinance is a step in the right direction to reduce waste, to save businesses money and promote good sustainable behavior,” said Northwest Side Ald. Samantha Nugent, 39th. “Plastic waste is at an all-time high, especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. When you order takeout delivery, it seems the bag is always half full of utensils, extra napkins and condiments.”

But local environmentalist Jordan Parker derided the proposal as not going nearly far enough to limit plastic in restaurants.

“This ordinance is masquerading as a pro-environment step in the right direction, but in actuality, it is pro-industry, pro-fossil fuel and pro-plastic green washing,” Parker said during testimony at the meeting. “If you pass this ordinance out of committee today, it will block critical and necessary legislation from being implemented at a later date, and set dangerous precedent.”

The plan passed the committee 9-6. The full City Council will consider it Tuesday.


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