by Katie Fleming
San Juan County Solid Waste Program Coordinator
Did you know the San Juan County Council proclaimed July as “plastic-free”? The proclamation recognized the pressing issues around plastic waste, including the fact that plastics are the most prevalent type of marine debris found in our oceans, as well as found daily on San Juan County’s shores, with devastating effects on marine life and human health.
Plastic Free July is a global movement helping millions of people be part of the solution by providing resources and ideas to help us all reduce single-use plastic waste. It’s a great time to make sure we’re all doing our part! In appreciation of this effort, I would like to remind our local businesses about the Washington State Single-use Serviceware Law (RCW 70A.245.080) that went into effect Jan. 1. Under this law, businesses can no longer automatically include single-use food service items with food orders.
Single-use food service ware items covered by the new requirements include:
• Utensils (knives, forks, spoons, chopsticks)
• Straws, cocktail picks, splash sticks, and stirrers,
• Condiment packets, sachets, or sauce cups, and,
• Cold cup lids except those provided at drive-through windows (hot cup lids are allowed).
To receive a single-use food service ware item, customers must request it, confirm their choice when asked, or select the item they want from a self-serve station. Customers are also encouraged to bring their own durable, reusable food containers, utensils, and straws to help reduce single-use waste.
I recently spent some time delivering information about this law to businesses in Friday Harbor with a group of students from the San Juan Islands Youth Conservation Corps. We were so happy to see many of our restaurants following the requirements perfectly. From Vics Drive-in no longer using plastic tops for milkshakes and only providing straws on request, to a self-serve tray for single-use items at Haley’s, it was great to see our businesses actively reducing their plastic use.
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 service ware items are also a major contaminant in Washington’s recycling system that decreases the value of recycled materials. Reducing their use will protect the Salish Sea, help the recycling system run more efficiently, and contribute to our existing ethic of waste reduction and reuse in San Juan County.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. You can also visit ecology.wa.gov/serviceware for information, tools, resources, and detailed compliance requirement. For more tips on how to reduce your plastic use, visit the Plastic Free Salish Sea website at www.plasticfreesalishsea.org.
San Juan County’s Department of Environmental Stewardship is responsible for solid waste, marine resources, clean water, cultural resources, and climate and sustainability work. The department offices are located at 915 Spring Street, Friday Harbor, WA 98250. For more information about San Juan County’s Department of Environmental Stewardship, visit www.sanjuanco.com/839/Environmental-Stewardship.
For more information visit the Department of Ecology’s webpage at www.ecology.wa.gov/serviceware.