After the New Year, you may need to prepare for your next Walla Takeout Stop Walla | Business

Closures and physical distancing have given take-out food to restaurants a boost during the pandemic as “ordering” has become the “search” for many. But starting on Saturday, if you want utensils and other disposables with your next take out order, you’ll have to ask.

A new state law prevent Washington businesses from automatically including single-use catering items such as plastic straws, utensils and condiments with food orders.

These convenience items will always be available on request, but the customer will need to ask, confirm their choice when asked, or select the items at a self-service station.

Customers are also encouraged to bring their own reusable dishes.

The rule, signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in May, aims to reduce single-use plastic waste and increase recycling.

For businesses in the Walla Walla area, the change is expected to be minor, especially compared to the October plastic bag ban, said Kathryn Witherington, executive director of the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation.

“The bag ban has had a much bigger impact on business practices and bottom lines … for all the loops our businesses have been throwing in the past year and a half, this one is hardly a ripple.” , Witherington said.

Instead, she focuses on educating buyers. “We want to make sure businesses are prepared for any uncertainties that may arise. “

Witherington handed out a resource guide to local businesses compiled by the Washington State Department of Ecology to help educate buyers.

Items that fall under the new rule include:

  • Forks, spoons, knives, chopsticks and other utensils
  • Cocktail sticks, straws, coffee sticks and stirrers
  • Condiment sachets or sauce cups
  • Cold cup lids, except those given to ATMs or large events

Single-use catering items covered by the new requirements

Livit Coffee owner Andrew Thonney echoed Witherington’s sentiments. The popular cafe sees around 200 customers a day and will have to make adjustments soon as the lids of the cold mugs see restrictions.

“It will be a transition for us, but with so many alternative options to plastic these days, we don’t expect this to be a real problem – other than maybe a small increase in costs,” Thonney said.

“A lot of that will be customer notification, but frankly Walla Walla is a super understanding community. They recognize where our hands are tied, ”he said.

Barista Alex Cerone helps a customer at Livit Coffee in July 2019.

Jason Potter, team leader in Graze in downtown Walla Walla, agreed.

“I don’t expect this to have much of an impact on our operations,” Potter said.

But some companies say they are concerned about how they will navigate the change.

Popular take-out for lunch, Stone Soup Café, and Supper Supper owner Aaron Leen said he did not yet have a plan on how the restaurant would handle the new rule.

“Considering that we are dealing with hundreds of clients every day, I think this will be terrible,” said Leen. “Like the ban on plastic bags, it is a waste of time in my opinion.”

Repeated non-compliance by companies can result in fines, according to the Department of Ecology. The fines cannot be less than $ 150 for each day of violation, with a ceiling of $ 2,000 per day, according to the text of the bill.

The law is part of a larger piece of legislation aimed at reducing plastic waste in packaging and products used daily, said Shannon Jones, materials management coordinator at Ecology.

“It’s not a ban. This doesn’t mean that people can’t get single-use utensils with their take out. It’s an attempt to reduce waste from people using items that might have ended up being thrown away or in a drawer, ”Jones said.

U.S. consumers throw away nearly a trillion single-use food items each year, according to a report cited by the Ministry of Ecology in a December press release.

Recycling in Walla Walla

An employee of the Walla Walla Recycling Center sorts a shipment of cardboard in November 2019.

Jones says single-use catering products are a major contaminant in the state’s recycling systems.

“It’s part of a national problem of tackling inconsistent recycling programs with drastically different lists of what’s accepted. There is also a lot of confusion among consumers around recycling, ”Jones said.

The Valley Recycling Enigma

While all municipalities are required to provide a recycling option in Washington State, the decision about what is accepted in the local recycling stream is made at the local level – another reason for the lack of consistency between programs. recycling in the region.

In the town of Walla Walla, the only recyclable items are clean, dry paper, cardboard, aluminum and tin. Plastic and glass are not accepted.

Shane Prudente, Walla Walla’s public works communications coordinator, said he believed many residents were unaware that the city was unable to recycle plastic, despite their best efforts in education and awareness. public.

“I imagine that with the entry into force of this new legislation, we would see less plastic in the recycling stream,” he said.

Plastic bottle recycling lot

The Walla Walla recycling center collects plastic bottles for shipping.

Prudente says the decision not to recycle plastic and glass is due to cost.

In a unanimous decision of October 14, 2020, Walla Walla City Council accepted a committee recommendation to suspend plastic recycling, a rule that came into effect in early 2021.

The move was part of a strategy to correct the misuse of the recycling program, a challenge that drives up costs.

If the contamination of recyclable waste is reduced, the suspension will be reassessed in 2023.

“When residents put items in a recycling bin, those items are trucked to Tacoma, which has a larger processing facility. This facility determines whether the items can be made into pulp or sent to landfill, ”said Prudente, referring to Pioneer Recycling Services in Tacoma.

“So many times plastic or glass waste is shipped long distances only to be landfilled. “

The city of College Place faces an even more precarious recycling situation, having suspended all curbside recycling services.

The rule came into effect on March 27, 2018, after the The Chinese government has dramatically increased the quality requirements on what recyclable materials they would accept. College Place did not meet this new requirement.

What’s the next step: creating local alternatives?

Expanded polystyrene, commonly known as polystyrene, will be the next material in the state to see restrictions in the years to come.

In June 2023, peanut packaging and other fillers will be banned. In June 2024, polystyrene catering products such as containers, plates, bowls, clam shells, platters and cups will also be banned.

Phil Harding, Director of Business Innovation at Colombian pulp LLC in Dayton said the alternative pulp mill hopes its products will help the local economy adjust to the changes.

Columbia Pulp Mill

The Columbia Pulp plant near Starbuck.

Each year, Columbia Pulp converts 250,000 tonnes of recycled wheat straw from the harvest into fiber that paper and packaging manufacturers can use to make things like food containers, napkins and handkerchiefs.

“If companies run out of molded clam shells, for example, they will look for alternatives. So that creates an attraction in the market, ”said Harding. “Maybe that’s where they turn to us. “

“Recycling is thwarted in sparsely populated areas. It’s not profitable or the best thing for the planet to have giant fuel-burning trucks driving around to collect my pot of yogurt, ”he said.

Harding said he hopes to provide a renewable alternative fiber product that also creates jobs and supports the eastern Washington farming community.

“We know the polystyrene will go away. This creates an exciting opportunity for our factory to create a co-product with farmers that builds a more sustainable future for our region.

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