Businesses Consider a Pivot to Compostable Utensils in Wake of New Law

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Businesses in Yelm are considering the use of compostable plastic utensils in the wake of a new law that restricts the availability of disposal items.

The Washington Legislature passed a law last year that restricted the use of plastic utensils supplied by restaurants, which went into effect on Jan. 1.

The law states business owners, including those in meal delivery services, cannot include plastic utensils such as spoons, knives and forks in their meal offerings unless a customer specifically asks for them.

The automatic provision of cold-cup lids and packaging for condiments are also restricted in the law, as well as the bundling of multiple types of utensils together. Customers will have to ask for each utensil individually.

While some businesses could set up self-serve utensil stations, others could opt to wait until a customer asks directly for any given utensil. 

The latter of the two options could be the more cost-effective option for local businesses who plan to take the restriction one step further and only offer compostable plastic utensils upon request.

Jerk Juicy BBQ in Yelm is considering offering sugar-based compostable utensils upon request.

“If I do recall, I believe there’s a product made out of sugar cane,” said Brian Pillsbury, the owner of the restaurant that opened earlier this year. “And that might be something we are going to, but we will have to charge for that.”

Pillsbury said he would have to increase prices to cover the cost differential if he made the switch, because compostable utensils cost more.

The Spokesman Review reported that compostable utensils could cost up to four times the amount of the run-of-the-mill single use plastics circulating today.

Marian Licxandru, owner of Pizzeria La Gitana Yelm, said his business already uses compostable plastics and supports the restrictions detailed in the law.

“We are in favor of it, because we believe we should do everything in our power to save the planet for our kids to live (on a) better planet,” Licxandru said. “We use compostable knives and forks. They are made out of a certain kind of plastic, but they are compostable.”

He said the increase in cost the compostable products require is well worth the money.

“We always spend a little bit more money to participate in making this planet a little bit safer for future generations,” Licxandru said.

The law, he said, doesn’t go far enough.

“I think they should take a little bit more of an aggressive approach and ban all the styrofoam containers,” Licxandru said. “I think that would make a bigger difference than some of the plastic forks.”

Licxandru reiterated the law does not call for a ban of plastic forks. He said the only thing that changes is that restaurants are not allowed to offer it to their customers. 

“We have to let the guests ask for it,” he said. “To be honest, we (currently provide) knives and forks, but I’m pretty sure people only use the forks, so I think … in the next decade we’re going to see a huge improvement from this law.”

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