Utensils No Longer Part of the Deal With Take-Out or Delivery as New Law Goes Into Effect in Chicago

People might notice something missing from their next takeout order. What happened to the wad of napkins and fistful of sporks at the bottom of the bag?

They've been eliminated on purpose.

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On Tuesday, Chicago's single-use foodware ordinance will go into effect, meaning disposable utensils will no longer be included with an order unless specifically requested by the customer. The law applies to delivery and takeout only, not dine-in.

The ordinance, which passed back in September, has been lauded by its supporters as an important first step toward plastic reduction but has been blasted by critics, who called the measure watered-down greenwashing. This latter group was aiming for tighter restrictions that would have banned plastic foam to-go containers, along with the limitations on foodware.

Here's what consumers need to know about the new ordinance.

Where does it apply?

Any "fixed location where food or drink is routinely prepared and served." That includes, but isn't limited to:

— Restaurants.

— Coffee shops, cafeterias, short order cafes, diners, luncheonettes and grills.

— Tearooms, sandwich shops and soda fountains. 

— Taverns, bars, cocktail lounges and nightclubs.

— Industrial feeding establishments, take-out establishments, private institutions or organizations routinely serving food, catering kitchens, commissaries or any other eating or drinking establishment or operation.

What's considered single-use "foodware"?

Any eating utensil or other item used as part of food or beverage service that's intended for only one use before being discarded. This includes:

— Forks, spoons, sporks, knives, chopsticks and other eating utensils.

— Stirrers, drink stoppers, splash sticks, cocktail sticks and toothpicks.

— Napkins and wet-wipes.

— Cup sleeves, beverage trays and disposable plates.

— Condiment packets.

What's exempt?

Establishments can provide customers any of the disposable utensils, etc., on request or via a self-service station for take-away. Not included in the definition of single-use foodware: straws, beverage lids and containers used to package food or beverages for delivery or take-out orders.

Other exemptions:

— Single-use foodware necessary to address safety concerns, such as cup sleeves for hot beverages.

—  Automatic food vending machines.

— Foodware prepackaged with or attached to any food or beverage by the manufacturer.

— Drive-thrus.

— Any charitable establishment, such as a food pantry.

— Any food establishment at O'Hare or Midway airports.

Note: This story was originally published Jan. 17. It has been updated to include our “Chicago Tonight” conversation. 

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 |  [email protected]

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