New rules go into effect Thursday requiring restaurants, coffee shops, food courts and cafeterias in Seattle to serve one-time use foods in compostable or recyclable containers.
Drew Greer, owner of Ballard Brothers Seafood and Burgers says this ordinance is a move in the right direction. “I wholeheartedly believe that the new city requirements are fair and Ballard Brothers packaging systems provide the duplicatable model for all the fast food chains that operate in the city,” Greer says, “We proved the system was doable two years ago and have perfected in over the last two years.” The restaurant has been using compostable packaging and utensils for two years. “It’s just good business and follows Ballard Brothers Seafood & Burgers tenets of using only wild sustainable seafood, conserving resources and buying the best quality products with the least negative impact on our environment,” Greer says.
“By offering their customers recycling and composting choices, Seattle restaurants will help prevent up to 6,000 tons of food service ware and leftover food from being sent to the landfill every year,” says Tim Croll the Solid Waste Director at Seattle Public Utilities. “That’s the equivalent of a garbage train more than 100 cars long that will just disappear.”
Greer says that in the time he’s been participating in the Cedar Grove composting program, two-thirds of the waste produced at the restaurant has been diverted from the landfill.
The new rules mean that napkins, paper bags, wooden stir sticks and other take-away containers can go into compost bins. According to Seattle Public Utilities, hot and cold beverage cups and lids will now go into recycling containers instead the trash. The food establishment must provide the appropriate container for disposal. There are a few exceptions until July 1, 2011, including utensils, straws, small portion cups, and foil faced, insulated wrap.
The biggest hurdle for Greer is working with the customer. “Most of the time it is about reeducating our customers to understand that all their waste from the table once they are done eating goes in the green bins, except the plastic red baskets and plastic beverage cups that get washed in our dishwasher,” he says.
Seattle is the first city in North America to require single-use food service packaging be either compostable or recyclable. Issaquah will implement similar rules next year. More information on the ordinance can be found here.
31 thoughts to “New city ordinance has restaurants going green”
At RoRo BBQ on Stone they use compostable items for just about everything. I know this because they told me as well as every single person who ordered ahead and behind me. They made this effort despite being super busy. And they did it all with a sense of humor. Fabulous! It totally affected the good will I feel towards them.
I’ve eaten at Ballard Bros several times in the past 2 years. I have never been told about their compostable items. But then they’ve never said much to me at beyond the “what would you like” exchange sans any personality.
How long ’til they make us eat out of our hands?
Don’t worry, Atlas. They will pass the cost of the compostable food service items onto the consumers. It gives the businesses the marketing push for being green, when the consumer pays for it all anyway. Now, who said Seattle wasn’t business friendly?
I am all for composting and recycling on a voluntary basis. The government does not need to be involved!!!
Liberalquietscan, get over it. We elected the officials who are pushing this through. We give them our money for government-funded programs, so we’d be paying for it even if the government handed money to the businesses to implement this action. If you have issues with paying a bit extra to reduce landfill waste, you can always eat at home, where you can reuse your dishes for the cost of washing them.
Sometimes you just have to deal with the right choice costing more, and my guess is that you won’t even notice the price difference at most restaurants. And frankly, moves like this are the only way to get some (inter)national chains to change for the better. Kudos to all the local places that do it voluntarily though!
This law is completely and totally unfair!!!!!
It gives an unfair advantage to businesses that are awesome, and penalizes businesses that are waste-spewing monsters sucking the lifeblood from the planet, by forcing them to become reasonable citizens of the world!
I want the 1950s back!!!!
Great coverage of a super local business. They have the best salmon sandwiches!
Businesses pass the cost of compostable products, which are more expensive, onto the consumer. This causes prices to increase to buyers. Small cost increases like this cause food to become less affordable. This causes an expensive market like Ballard to become even more unaffordable to people that wish to remain here as longtime residents. I agree that composting is the right thing to do. I make a point to do it everyday. That is because I have a good stable well-paying job that affords me time to be concerned with these things. To those on the edge or struggling financially, composting is not an issue. Feeding their family is the issue. Small increases everywhere add-up for families like this. Improving one area to hurt another is not the right approach either.
Doesn’t the cost savings from having significantly less garbage waste exceed the cost of compostable containers? Especially in a restaurant which probably the bulk of its trash (which it must pay for disposal) would have been food waste previously. Do the businesses have to pay for the composte waste, or is that free or reduced cost (since Cedar Grove is making use of it)?
At our house, now with compost and recycling, we probably only throw 1/3 or less of all waste in the trash can. Which definitely saves money.
Being environmental (saving resources) and economical (saving money) can go hand in hand you know, especially when you think long term.
@liberalquietscan: you could use that exact same argument to dig in and resist any changes that will lessen the impact of global warming but have some economic cost attached.
At some point, we have to stop putting off paying the piper. The poorest among us are going to be the worst off when climate change really starts to effect the economy.
The answer isn’t to avoid enacting things like this law because of their potential impact on the poor. The answer is to enact these things and also to make sure that the poorest have a safety net, and to reduce income disparity.
“The answer is to enact these things and also to make sure that the poorest have a safety net, and to reduce income disparity.”
So screw us at both ends. Great model.
There are other situations were a “green” law unfairly taxes the poor. This isn’t one of them. If you are barely able to afford to feed your family then what are you doing depending on take out? Even a middle class family is going to feel a financial pinch relying on take out food rather than buying groceries- with or without this new law.
I think Cosmo’s on the right track. It has been claimed that recycling and composting cost less than disposal in a landfill. If that’s true, then implementing this law should reduce the cost of waste disposal, and thus reduce the cost of waste collection to the end use. IIRC, though, waste disposal costs have been jacked up, not reduced. It would be nice to see actual numbers.
From a functional standpoint, the current substitutes for the classic styrofoam clamshell don’t work nearly as well to keep hot food hot. I’d be willing to pay a small “eco-fee” for such takeout containers instead of having this blanket ban. Then again, maybe we just need some more R&D to get compostable foam containers that perform like styrofoam.
As a side note, we have ridiculously large areas of land that could be used for landfills, so we’re not in any physical danger of running out of landfill space for at least some thousands of years yet. Thus, “conserving” landfill space should be purely a cost issue.
meh, i don’t really want to paw through my fast food garbage like a raccoon to sort stuff, so whatever, this will be easier.
Waste of time; I’ll just throw it all in the trash anyway. I have no time to waste sorting garbage.
If they want to pay someone to sort it later fine.
Want to really do something for the environment? Make your home from only dead wood. Build fires from dead wood. Eat only what you grow or can catch and kill with your bare hands. Use leaves or the skin of animals you have killed and eaten for clothes. Do this and then I may take your environmentalism seriously. Otherwise to most it is just the latest fad.
“As a side note, we have ridiculously large areas of land that could be used for landfills, so we’re not in any danger of running out of landfill space for at least some thousands of years yet. Thus, “conserving” landfill space should be purely a cost issue.”
By all means, use all the extra ridiculously large areas available to make more landfills. I believe it’s usually called “habitat” or “natural areas”. And by all means, let us continue to consume natural resources at minimum cost to us. After all, we adult individuals who are now purchasing and voting will not bear the cost to the environment (which supports our style of living). That cost will be absorbed by our children.
You may or may not have kids, but I do. And I don’t only feel duty toward them, but to the entire next generation, including your kids if you have them. As an individual, I will gladly bear the additional cost of living as ethically as possible in the hope to tread more lightly on the earth, in the interest of your kids and mine.
You may think it’s stupid, that it’s not worth the effort. You may think we’re too far gone, or we should let it be someone else’s problem, or that we’ll go extinct anyway, or that *gulp* it will increase our cost of living. News flash- our cost of living is as low as it is because we steal the future away from others, in the present and in the future. To me, it’s a moral imperative.
Is it really that difficult to learn to sort our waste? Kindergartners can do it, and can explain why it’s important. If you know one, I encourage you ask them how they feel about our financial priorities and what we consider worth our time.
And last, to address the all-or-nothing argument, it is not necessary to go Grizzly Adams to be “green”. ANY SMALL EFFORT MAKES A DIFFERENCE. If you went on a diet you would not expect to lose ten pounds on the first day, why should you be able to be a hard-core environmentalist in one week? Just like you will never lose weight unless you at least get off the couch and go for a walk, we will never make changes if we don’t choose one small thing and start there. So choose one. And start.
Do this, do that, can’t YOU read the sign. I had nothing to do with selecting the nanny state fools. The more government does for you, the more it does to you. “The more a government grows the less freedom we all have”. Jefferson. Why is it progressives assume we’re all too stupid to know what to do with our lives?
libertariantroll scrawled: ” They will pass the cost of the compostable food service items onto the consumers.”
Which is fine with me. The consumer should be responsible for the cost of the wastestream that they generate. Prior to this we were all paying for the larger cost of landfill which generates no return down the line. Now, just the customers of the business will pay for compostable containers (IF they cost more, which they won’t when every business uses them) and in the end the rest of us will pay less for landfill and the compostable containers will return as compost for growing more food instead of taking up space in a landfill.
BH – Good news! There’s even plenty of potential landfill space that’s not “habitat” or “natural areas”. Here are a few win-win examples: old quarry sites, old factory sites, old smelter sites — you get the picture. One nice thing about such sites is that they typically already have good rail/transport connections.
As for the idea that “…our cost of living is as low as it is because we steal the future away from others, in the present and in the future,” I think it’s rather because of our cumulative technological knowledge and the ways we’ve developed to structure society. For example, that’s why Hong Kong, with essentially no physical resources, did so well during the 2nd half of the 20th century while next-door resource-rich China stagnated.
I find it helpful not to rely too much on my own guesses about what our descendants 100 years from now will find important. Not much more than 100 years ago, artificial lighting was threatened by a drastic shortage of whale oil, and cities were plagued by ever-increasing street volumes of horse manure. Not many worry about those issues today.
Just wanted to add that you’re spot on about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good — even a small effort makes a difference.
Places start raising their prices too much and they’ll be going out of business fast. Thanks to Western agricultural techniques and the use of chemistry food production is up and food is cheap. Places start raising prices folks will go elsewhere. . . . a five minute drive for a cheaper burger that tastes just as fine. I suspect this little nanny law may tip a few struggling places over into closure.
“…food production is up and food is cheap.”
The number of tainted food cases is also up.
The amount of empty calories from food science is up.
The rate of obesity is waaay up.
Not sure what you mean by “empty” calories (a calorie is a calorie is a calorie), but tainted food cases are way down in the last 100 years (didn’t Upton Sinclair become famous by writing about the meat processing industry in early 20th century Chicago?).
Obesity IS way up, but that’s just because we never do any exercise. Of course, THAT’s clearly because of the evil conspiracy against the missing link. Maybe we need Dan Brown to come to Ballard and expose it all Da Vinci Code-style.
Atlas, etc., think thought what you’re saying.
You ALREADY pay for landfill space, through your municipal taxes, so every pound o trash diverted from a landfill is another pound you don’t have to pay for.
Of course businesses will pass additional costs onto the consumer. They already did that when gas prices skyrocketed to record highs in 2008, when there was no supply disruption. Every bit of packaging derived from petroleum went up in price, too, and that cost was passed on to you, as well.
Think it through, people. Although change is scary, your criticisms defy common sense.
Mondoman, Corn syrup.
“SPG // Jul 2, 2010 at 6:17 pm
“…food production is up and food is cheap.”
The number of tainted food cases is also up.
The amount of empty calories from food science is up.
The rate of obesity is waaay up.”
Yeah, starving has gotten a bad rap over the years.
Perhaps in the interest of saving the planet we all just eat once every two days.
What a moron!
I almost forgot:
It’s George Bush’s fault!!!!!!!!!!!
There, that should satisfy the Libtards and “solve” everything.
q, You need to build a better strawman before you throw out the word moron or any version of ‘tard, though I do like libtard as a name for libertarians.
The point being made is not that we’re getting fat because we live in a world of plenty, but that what we’re making plenty of is the wrong thing if you look at it from the point of people’s health.
Humans are hard wired to appreciate the taste of fat, sweet, and salt because a few million years ago that was the best way to stay alive. Today we have most fast food outlets catering to those tastes with a greasy cheeseburger, salty fries, and sweet corn syrup beverage. Low on the protein that keeps us healthy, but high on the base desires which when you ingest enough of make you unhealthily obese.
The rise in obesity over the past half century mirrors very closely the rise of food science that mass manufactures food putting corn syrup in just about everything.
Cosmo is (partially) right. He mentions a good point on the financial side of cost/benefit, but let’s not get in the dollars-and-cents discussion. To my thinking, the question is “What would we rather pass on to the next (and next, and next) generation, a pile of plastic, or nothing (the remains after compost is incorporated back from whence it came)?”
It’s not a question of value (in the dollars and cents sense), it’s a question of values (as in my extended, multi-generational family sense).
I vote for giving the next generations a livable home.
You made an excellent point: “I find it helpful not to rely too much on my own guesses about what our descendants 100 years from now will find important. Not much more than 100 years ago, artificial lighting was threatened by a drastic shortage of whale oil, and cities were plagued by ever-increasing street volumes of horse manure. Not many worry about those issues today.”
It *is* a bit arrogant to think that we can see the fine grained details of the future. Heck, I don’t know anyone who’s even good at a 5 year vision, me included.
And… if we pull back to a broader brush framing (higher level if you will), then your insight into whale oil and horse manure are a perfect match for plastic (petroleum oil and landfills). They both involve depletion of limited natural resources (whale oil + petroleum), and leaving the next generation a degraded living space at the expense of our trash stream (horse manure + landfills and the Pacific Gyre) .
The particulars are different, but I’d propose that the values that give us direction today are the ones that would have served us 100 years ago. Take only what you need (and that can be replenished), and leave the place nice for the next folks to live in.
Previous civilizations *have* toppled their populations by consuming more than could be replenished or degrading their environment. The common word for that is “unsustainable”.