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City Council Approves Ordinance To Crack Down On Single-Use Utensils At Chicago Restaurants

by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Aldermen on Tuesday approved an ordinance aimed at curbing the use of single-use utensils at Chicago restaurants.

The ordinance would prohibit restaurants from automatically providing most single-use foodware – such as plastic utensils, napkins, or condiment packets – with delivery or take-out orders, unless they're specifically requested by customers.

Restaurants would be able to provide self-serve stations for diners to pick up such disposable utensils and condiment packets themselves.

Drive-through restaurants and airport concessions would be exempt from the ban, on the assumption that those customers rely on single-use utensils to eat in their car, on a plane, or while waiting for their flight at the airport.

Straws, drink lids, Styrofoam take takeout containers, and coffee cup sleeves also would be exempted from the ban.

Aldermen approved the ordinance by a 37-10 vote. Supporters said it's a step toward reducing waste from Chicago restaurants and help them save money, while not placing an undue burden on local businesses while they're already struggling during the pandemic.

However, opponents said the ordinance does not go far enough to reduce waste from single-use plastics.

"I hope that we as a council can take up a future ordinance that will really address this issue, and make sure we're taking the necessary steps to protect our environment and address climate change," Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) said.

Ald. Samantha Nugent (39th), the chief sponsor of the ordinance, acknowledged there's more the City Council should do in the future to protect the environment, but said the ordinance is a good first step.

"I have always believed, and I continue to believe that small, incremental change is the way to go about it," she said.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), said the ordinance is a "step in the right direction," but said the larger problem is that too many people rely on the convenience of takeout or delivery from restaurants, not only increasing the use of plastic utensils, but creating more air pollution from all the cars used to deliver food.

"So what about the emissions? What about the congestion? I mean, this is so much bigger than this, and we've got work to do with the environment, but this is an incremental approach,"  he said. "We ought to have a much broader discussion about the environment and waste – that is a separate item – because we are an embarrassment when it comes to the environment. I'm not worried about plastic, I'm worried about fossil fuels, I'm worried people not caring about about all of the conveiences of getting them to their front door. Why don't you walk to the grocery store? It's ridiculous what's going on here."

After being approved by the City Council, the ordinance will go into effect in four months.

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