Prince George’s Co. to limit disposable utensils at restaurants

Sea turtles, rejoice! Less plastic will be floating in our area waterways, thanks to a new bill that goes into effect next month.

Beginning June 1, eateries in Prince George’s County can only provide single-use utensils upon request. Take-out and delivery orders will also only have disposable utensils upon request.

The County Bill, CB-014-2022, is an effort to reduce waste and applies to all county food service entities, including fast food, cafes, grocery stores, food trucks and more.

Single-use items will still be available at self-serve stations. Specifically, single-use foodware includes the following items, as outlined by a county news release:

  • Utensils (knives, forks, spoons, chopsticks)
  • Splash sticks and stirrers
  • Straws (*Under a previous 2019 county law, only compostable and paper straws are permitted)
  • Condiment cups and packets
  • Cup sleeves
  • Napkins

“Supporting this waste reduction and reuse culture will help our Materials Recycling Facility operate more efficiently and keep waste and litter from ending up in our communities, streets, and waterways,” said Andrea Crooms, director of the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment.

The county’s Litter Reduction Program aims to reduce waste in county waterways and more than 170,000 pounds of trash a year in the Anacostia River Watershed.

The bill will also reduce single-use take-out utensils. Restaurants offering delivery options will no longer default to providing disposable foodware unless specifically requested in-person, by phone or when ordering online. Facilities that use third-party delivery services will have to customize their menu with a list of single-use cutlery items that customers can request when ordering.

Many food delivery services have already implemented an option to opt out of disposable cutlery companywide. Uber Eats, Postmates, Grubhub and DoorDash have all joined the #CutOutCutlery movement, which prevented 122 million packs of cutlery delivered in a single year nationally, just by defaulting to not including disposable foodware with orders.

While the bill takes effect June 1, county enforcement won’t begin until Oct 1.

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David Andrews

No stranger to local news, David Andrews has contributed to DCist, Greater Greater Washington and was fellow at Washingtonian Magazine. He worked as a photo/videographer for University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

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