2 minutes reading time (401 words)

New Single-use Food Serviceware Law

Single-use disposable serviceware is an ordinary part of any takeout, delivery, or casual dining experience today – yet it generates an immense amount of garbage that often ends up as litter in the environment or contaminating recycling systems. Washington has a new state law aimed at reducing plastic waste and litter, and one component of this legislation specifically targets single-use food serviceware. 

Starting January 1, 2022, businesses in Washington will no longer automatically include single-use serviceware with food or beverage orders. They will also discontinue providing multiple single-use items in packaged bundles, such as fork, knife, and napkin wrapped in plastic film. Restaurant customers must confirm that they want these items included with their order. Businesses may also provide single-use items in a self-serve station where customers can choose what they need.

 What items are included in the single-use disposable serviceware law?

The single-use food and beverage items included in the new single-use serviceware law are:

  • Utensils (knives, forks, spoons, chopsticks)
  • Cocktail picks, splash sticks, and stirrers
  • Straws
  • Condiment packets, sachets, or sauce cups
  • Cold cup lids, except those provided at drive-through windows or events with over 2,500 people

What items are not included?

The law does not include:
  • Plates, bowls, cups, and other products used to contain food or beverages
  • Lids for hot beverages
  • Wrappers for takeout food items

Are there other exemptions?

The law does not apply to single-use serviceware provided to a patient, resident, or customer of the following:

  • Health care facilities
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Hospice
  • Senior nutrition programs and nursing homes
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Services to individuals with developmental disabilities
  • State hospitals

A complete list of exempt facilities is available here.

Why a focus on single-use serviceware?

Single-use serviceware items, often made of plastic, pollute the environment and are made up of substances that can be harmful to humans. They are a major contaminant in Washington's recycling system that decreases the value of recycled materials. There are financial, social, and environmental benefits to refusing single-use items when not needed, using reusable items when possible, and disposing of single-use items properly. The new plastics legislation is meant to promote these activities.

For more information on the 2021 Plastics Law and an outreach toolkit to inform customers visit the Department of Ecology website. To learn more about the single-use serviceware law, view the Dec 6th Department of Ecology News Release.
Green Business Spotlight: Cascade Sprouts
Nominate your business for a 2022 Green Award!