On July 12, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill making it easier for diners to bring their own reusable cups and containers to restaurants to help avoid single-use packaging.
Matt Sutton, senior vice president of government affairs and public policy for the California Restaurant Association, told Nation’s Restaurant News that many restaurants were interested in helping the cause, but were previously worried about the safety ramifications. “Some restaurants were doing it, but most were not because of those concerns about cross-contamination,” he told NRN. But with the new law, he says the state now has an official procedure in place. “A restaurant doesn’t have to accept these containers, but if they want to, there’s no responsibility on the restaurant’s part to clean and sanitize them.”
The state now allows restaurants to fill customer containers as long as they are either isolated from the serving surface or the surface is sanitized after each fill. Furthermore, new, more environmentally-friendly rules have also been put in place for “temporary food facilities” found at places like markets or festivals. Previously, they were required to offer single-use items like disposable utensils. Now, local enforcement agencies can let these food facilities clean and sanitize multiuse options if they see fit.
“Having fun at a concert or festival does not have to result in a sea of trash,” San Francisco’s Assemblymember David Chiu, who introduced the bill. “I am grateful Governor Newsom saw the need for this new law that will give event organizers the ability to make greener choices and reduce landfill waste.
While the idea may sound simple, it’s anything but.
The bill, signed by the governor this week, makes restaurant participation voluntary, meaning establishments can still decline to fill customers’ containers. But if a restaurant does want to fill that container you brought, it will have to have a few procedures in place.
First, restaurants must have a written policy for preventing cross-contamination available on-site for health inspectors. Second, they must “isolate the consumer-owned container from the serving surface or sanitize the surface after each filling.” That sounds like restaurants have to treat customer Tupperware like a haz-mat spill, keeping it away from other surfaces in the kitchen or following its path with a spray bottle of disinfectant.
As Californians make efforts to cut down on single-use plastics and reviled foam containers, no doubt they’ll be more interest in Bring Your Own Box. Whether restaurants want to go through the bother to accept them is another story.
Food & Wine, The Takeout