LA County Takes Steps Towards Banning Single-use Plastics

Board of Supervisors approve ordinance along 4-1 vote, final vote still needed

By Dolores Quintana

An ordinance that would ban the use of single-use plastics and disposable food containers, cups or dishes by restaurants and businesses in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County has advanced in the approval process as reported by ABC 7 Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted without a discussion of the ordinance and it passed 4 to 1. Supervisor Kathryn Barger was the only supervisor who voted against the ordinance. 

The ordinance requires that all cutlery, dishes and containers be either recyclable or compostable and that any retail stores in these areas would be prohibited from selling any styrofoam or “expanded polystyrene” products of any kind. Those products include cups, coolers, packaging materials, plates and pool toys unless they are sheathed in a “durable material” that makes them longer lasting. Restaurants with dine in service must also only provide customers with reusable “multi-service” tableware. 

The ordinance must be approved by the Board of Supervisors with a second vote, but that vote hasn’t been scheduled at this time. If this final vote approves the measure, then the ordinance would go into effect starting in May of 2023 if the restaurant location is a permanent establishment or a retail location. Food trucks would have until November 1 of 2023 to comply and finally, farmer’s markets, catering companies and temporary food locations would have until May 1 of 2024 to comply. 

The fine for violations of the ordinance would be $100 dollars a day and fines would go up to a maximum of $1,000 per year. Backers of the ordinance are environmental groups who oppose the use of disposable and styrofoam products because they fear the effects of these products on the environment and human health. 

CJ O’Brien of Oceana said, as quoted by ABC 7 Los Angeles, “Plastic has now been found in our water, food, air and our bodies, and scientists are still (learning) how this may be affecting human health.” and that marine animals “are consuming or becoming entangled” in the disposable waste that come from use of these products. She also said that billions of pounds of plastic and styrofoam waste enter the marine ecosystem each year and that amount is projected to triple by the year 2040.

Business groups have been opposed to this measure, stating that it will increase their costs and that there is no evidence that the ordinance will actually reduce waste products. A representative from The Valley Industry and Commerce Association claims that the cost of 100 compostable forks is ten times the cost of 1,000 disposable plastic forks. 

To address business concerns, Supervisors Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis proposed and the board approved a motion to provide business owners with an education and outreach program from the county to help businesses integrate and implement the changes necessary to comply with the ordinance. This program would require county officials to provide business owners with the educational information to go forward and the officials would put together a list of sources for compostable and recyclable utensils and tableware. The county would also monitor the supply chain to watch for any potential issues in getting those products. Hahn acknowledged that the pandemic has been especially difficult for restaurants, but that this ordinance is necessary to lessen the effects of plastics on the environment. 

Supervisor Hahn noted that she proposed the motion because she wanted “to make sure that we work with our businesses. We want to make sure they’re not overburdened and have what they need to comply with this.”as quoted by ABC7 Los Angeles. 

“We want to help them, give them the tools that they need.”

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