What’s the deal with single-use foodware in Truckee? Single-use items like plastic utensils, coffee cups and straws are part of our everyday lives. After intense environmental inputs to produce these items, they are used once and end up in our landfills, environment, streams, lakes, and oceans forever, since plastic does not biodegrade. Single-use foodware packaging makes up 68% of litter found in Truckee. Community members, student groups, and our town council members have asked for policies to reduce these disposable items in Truckee.
Can’t we just recycle or compost foodware items? Recycling and composting are not reliable outlets for single-use items. Due to recent regulations in China, the ability to recycle materials has significantly been reduced. In Truckee, we can only recycle clean #1 and #2 plastics, paper, metal, and glass. Be sure to rinse out recyclable foodware items before tossing in the blue bin to be sure food residue doesn’t prevent it from being recycled.
Compostable products made out of corn, sugarcane or other plant-based materials are not necessarily sustainable alternatives. In reality, these types of “compostable” bio-plastics or fibers, are not accepted at most composting facilities, including our own, and instead go to landfill. Plus, these products still require resources to produce, including land, water, and fossil fuels, and are still only used once before being thrown away. Using compostable foodware that is landfilled yields no greenhouse gas reduction benefits compared to using conventional plastics.
What is the solution to single-use foodware? The most impactful strategy is to reduce the amount of waste generated in the first place. The goals of this ordinance are to:
- Reduce the use of ALL disposable foodware, regardless if it’s plastic, compostable, or paper. There is no “best” single-use option, and we are focusing on reducing the use of ALL disposables.
- Create a cultural shift towards reusable foodware. Reusable foodware beats single-use alternatives by every environmental measure. In just 15 washes, reusable containers beat out disposables for environmental impacts.
Often times we only consider if a product is composted, recycled, or landfilled. But, the impacts from production (material extraction, manufacturing, and transportation) are actually responsible for a majority of the environmental impact. Reusables are only produced once, saving a majority of the environmental impacts.
Remember the waste management hierarchy: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE AS THE LAST RESORT!
Restaurant Procurement Guide
As a follow up to feedback received during business outreach, we have compiled a procurement guide to help food-related businesses procure takeout items that have a lower environmental impact. There are many factors that decide if a product is more or less environmentally friendly, including, but not limited to the material, weight, and packaging. There is no “best” disposable product, but this guide will help businesses with considerations to make when purchasing disposable products. When possible, reusables are always the better option.
Community & Business Workshops: A business workshop was held in August 2019 to receive feedback on ideas to reduce the impact of waste. Over 14 food-service business representatives were in attendance. A community workshop was later held in October 2019 where over 65 community members were in attendance and shared community goals surrounding waste reduction.
Single-use Foodware Reduction Working Group: The working group was the steering committee that evaluated the policies in detail and developed recommendations to Town Council. This group included three business owners, two members of the public, two students, one environmental advocate, and two Truckee Town Council Members. The group’s goals included to develop equitable and effective policies to reduce excess single-use foodware waste in our community.
Community Survey: Following the working group’s conclusion, staff conducted community outreach to receive feedback on the group’s recommendations. Over 480 survey responses were received providing feedback from community members and businesses. After considering the responses, staff presented the final recommendations and feedback to the Town Council for further consideration.
Working Group Meeting Details
2nd Meeting – January 31st, 2022- Meeting Agenda and Documents
3rd Meeting – March 7th, 2022- Meeting Agenda and Documents
4th Meeting – April 4th, 2022- Meeting Agenda and Documents
5th Meeting – May 2nd, 2022- Meeting Agenda and Documents
6th Meeting – June 6th, 2022- Meeting Agenda and Documents