On May 1st, 2023, the Reduction of Waste from Single-Use Articles and Expanded Polystyrene Products Ordinance went into effect in Los Angeles County Unincorporated Areas, California. This significant shift underscores the growing importance of sustainable packaging in the food service industry. This ordinance mandates that single-use articles for serving ready-to-eat food must be either compostable or recyclable. It also requires full-service restaurants to use reusable food service ware for dine-in customers and prohibits retail establishments from selling products made of expanded polystyrene (#6 plastic) in unincorporated areas within the county.
The food service industry is diverse, covering a wide range of facilities such as restaurants, bars, coffee shops, fast-food joints, food carts, grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, school cafeterias, hospitals, nursing facilities, snack bars, food trucks, juice bars, farmers markets, and temporary food facilities like events or conferences. If your food service business falls under any of these categories and is located in the unincorporated areas of LA County, it may be time to review your current food service ware and consider compliant alternatives.
What Does “Unincorporated Areas” Mean, and Where Are They?
Unincorporated areas are regions not governed by a municipal corporation and are, therefore, under county jurisdiction. There are approximately 124 such areas, covering about 65% of LA County land. However, since some of these areas include mountains and other uninhabited lands, the population in these regions accounts for only 9% of the total LA County populace of 10.1 million people. Please find the full list of which areas are unincorporated through this link: LA County Unincorporated areas. To find out if your food service facility is located in one of these areas, you can consult this LA Unincorporated Areas interactive map and search for your facility by name or address. If the city name of the address is labeled as “Unincorporated,” your facility falls under the scope of this new ordinance.
LA Unincorporated Areas Map
Enforcement and Exemptions
In the first year following the ordinance’s implementation, enforcement will focus on education rather than punitive measures. After this grace period, non-compliance could result in fines of up to $100 per day, with a maximum annual fine of $1,000. However, there are some exemptions. Street food vendors are not required to comply, nor are foods prepared and packaged outside the unincorporated areas. Health facilities providing ready-to-eat food during treatment or emergencies are also exempt. Waivers may be granted for undue hardships, and temporary waivers are available for businesses working towards compliance.
Defining “Compostable” and “Recyclable” Packaging
Compostable: Packaging should be free of PFAs, fluorinated chemicals, and either home compostable or composed only of fiber-based materials without coatings or additives. If no such alternative exists products can be approved if certified by both the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) and the Compost Manufacturing Alliance (CMA).
Recyclable: This term refers to materials that can be source-separated and feasibly recycled, processed, and marketed to re-enter society’s use.
Direct Pack’s Commitment
Although the ordinance stipulates that plastic is not considered recyclable under this ordinance, we at Direct Pack believe our products should be. We are actively collaborating with LA County Public Works and seeking support from state government agency research, like CalRecycle, to show that our primary materials, PET and rPET, are widely recycled and part of Direct Pack’s circular process. Anticipated research results regarding recycling rates will likely be available in the beginning of 2024, and will contribute to the Truth in Labeling Act (SB343) that will go into effect in 2025. We remain committed to ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders and are making further strides in providing sustainable and recyclable packaging in line with both existing and upcoming regulations.
In July 2023, a customer approached us for assistance in addressing a newly proposed plastic reduction ordinance in Burbank, California, which initially prohibited the use of PET packaging in local food service facilities. By delivering educational content on the recyclability and circularity of PET, engaging in one-on-one discussions, and participating in city meetings, we succeeded in securing a spot for our primary material on the approved list of the new ordinance. This highlights the importance of getting into the legislation process early.
Why Choose Direct Pack & BOTTLEBOX®?
Our BOTTLEBOX® containers lead the way in sustainable food packaging. They are made with post-consumer recycled PET bottles and packaging, and PET is the most recycled plastic globally today. Each BOTTLEBOX® is designed to be recycled, continually re-entering the recycling stream. For hot food, we offer microwavable containers made from polypropylene (#5 PP), which can be combined with BOTTLEBOX® lids to maximize the sustainability of your packaging. PP is classified as a “widely recycled” material. Choosing BOTTLEBOX® is not just about convenience and quality; it’s a responsible choice that contributes to a more sustainable environment. Together, let’s make strides in reducing plastic waste and recycle all your PET and PP packaging. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns.
Your partnership is invaluable as we navigate these regulatory changes, and we are committed to assisting you every step of the way.