By Andy Cook, Harbor Foodservice’s Restaurant Collaborator
As of January 1st, 2022, businesses may no longer automatically include single-use items in customer orders.
- We’ve been wasting money distributing single-use items.
- This law provides us political coverage to stop.
- Building it into your online ordering/3rd Party Delivery.
- Links to the specifics, printable signage, social media graphics, and other resources (below).
The reasoning behind this is sound; it’s wasteful, damaging, and EXPENSIVE.
Every year, 1 trillion individual pieces of single-use items are used by US foodservices equaling 9 million tons of trash, 20 billion of those contribute to litter.
Accepting the obvious after-use mentioned above, consider the pre-use impact of manufacturing on climate pollution, energy use, water consumption, resource extraction, etc.
Our nation’s industry (over 80% small businesses) spend $24 billion and it burdens our communities with a yearly average of $6 billion in waste management.
Three noble, conservatively minded reasons to curb runaway waste, right? Let’s zero in on the part where it’s good for you and why.
We (restaurant operators) aren’t just throwing away single-use items, we’re throwing away money! MOST of these items are being tossed into bags and handed off to people who don’t even want them! (I have a collection of chopsticks in my kitchen drawer older than my teenager).
As the pandemic accelerated the off-site dining share of foodservice, every collaboration with operators I’ve been a part of on this topic included breaking the reflex to stuff a bag full of "whatever they might need" because A) it’s wasteful, and B) pennies add up to dollars.
The most common refrain boils down to our commitment to generous hospitality “I want my patron to have whatever they need” and/or “I don’t want to seem cheap or neglectful”. But let’s be honest with ourselves, we’ve practiced this out of habit and haven’t historically given it much thought.
We should embrace this new regulation because it gives us political coverage on both. PLUS, it gives you flex space on whatever stance you have or wish to project to your patrons, anywhere from “We want to do our part for our climate” to “Those &$%# politicians are making me do this!”
So much of offsite dining is being taken straight into homes with better flatware, fridges full of condiments, (a historical inventory of chopsticks) etc. Stuffing the bags with unnecessary (often unwanted) trash is a bad habit we need to break.
Make single-use items a free option on your online takeout delivery platforms, ween your staff, make them available counter side for your patrons.
Here are links to the Department of Ecology’s resources (and other cool things) to make it easier:
Andy Cook, Harbor Foodservice’s Restaurant Collaborator