New WA State Law Will Reduce the Use of Single-use Utensils, Condiments, and Straws Beginning Jan. 1

Posted December 29, 2021 at 9:28 am by

Plastic utensils - Photo credit to the Department of Ecology

Begin­ning Jan. 1, 2022, Wash­ing­ton restau­rants will no longer auto­mat­i­cal­ly include sin­gle-use food ser­vice items like uten­sils, condi­ments, and straws with food orders. A new state law restricts the use of these items and pro­hibits pack­aged bun­dles of sin­gle-use items in order to reduce waste and lit­ter – although cus­tomers can still request indi­vid­ual items if need­ed. This law is part of the broad­er waste reduc­tion leg­isla­tive pack­age passed in 2021.

Sin­gle-use food ser­vice­ware items cov­ered by the new require­ments include: 

  • uten­sils (knives, forks, spoons, chopsticks)
  • cock­tail picks, splash sticks, and stirrers
  • straws
  • condi­ment pack­ets, sachets, or sauce cups and
  • cold cup lids except those pro­vid­ed at dri­ve-through win­dows or events with over 2,500 people.

Under the new law, to receive a sin­gle-use food ser­vice­ware item, cus­tomers must request it, con­firm their choice when asked, or select the item they want from a self-serve sta­tion. “Auto­mat­i­cal­ly includ­ing dis­pos­able sil­ver­ware, straws and condi­ments with every order cre­ates a huge amount of waste, much of which ends up lit­ter­ing our roads and dam­ag­ing our envi­ron­ment,” said Lau­rie Davies, man­ag­er of the Sol­id Waste pro­gram at the Wash­ing­ton Depart­ment of Ecol­o­gy. “This law nudges peo­ple to help reduce unnec­es­sary waste.”

Near­ly one tril­lion sin­gle-use food ser­vice prod­ucts are dis­posed or lit­tered each year in the Unit­ed States, accord­ing to a 2021 Upstream report. Sin­gle-use food ser­vice­ware items are also a major con­t­a­m­i­nant in Washington’s recy­cling sys­tem that decreas­es the val­ue of recy­cled mate­ri­als. Reduc­ing their use will pro­tect the state’s rivers and streams, help the recy­cling sys­tem run more effi­cient­ly, and con­tribute to a grow­ing cul­ture of waste reduc­tion and reuse. 

Cus­tomers are encour­aged to bring their own durable, reusable food con­tain­ers and uten­sils to help reduce sin­gle-use waste and to cre­ate habits that keep those items clean and avail­able for use on the go. 

Vis­it for infor­ma­tion, tools, resources, and detailed com­pli­ance require­ments for Washington’s sin­gle-use ser­vice­ware law. Local busi­ness­es are encour­aged to use it as a resource to inform staff and cus­tomers about the new law.

For more tips on how to reduce your plas­tic use, vis­it the Plas­tic Free Sal­ish Sea web­site at

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Categories: Environment, Government

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