LA’s push to get plastic out of sea and into recycling bin

Hosted by

More than half of the plastic trash that makes its way into oceans comes from products and packaging that are not recyclable, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. LA County is now moving to ban those materials at restaurants. Photo by Shutterstock.

Restaurants and food facilities in unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County will be prohibited from distributing single-use plastics starting next year. 

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed a measure that will require all take-away food service containers, cups, dishes, and utensils be recyclable or compostable. 

Gary Gero, LA County’s chief sustainability officer, says a wide range of businesses in the local food industry will be impacted by the ordinance, which will be rolled out in phrases. 

“Everything from full-service restaurants to fast food restaurants. It would also include food trucks and community food events. If food is served at a farmers market, for instance, the food that will be served at those sort of community events will also be impacted.”

All food facilities operating in a permanent location will be expected to comply with the new ordinance on May 1, 2023. The new regulations will go into effect for food trucks on November 1, 2023. Farmers’ markets, catering companies, and temporary food facilities will be required to abandon single-use plastics by May 1, 2024.  

Under the ordinance, full-service restaurants with sit-down service will also be mandated to provide customers with reusable utensils and plates.

Critics of the plan argue that the ban on single-use plastics will create an inconvenience for some restaurants, and an added expense could be passed onto customers. But Gero says he doesn’t buy into the argument that it’s just a drop in the ocean that won’t change anything.

“We need 1,000 different strategies, all of which are going to contribute to addressing the problem, and this is one of them.”

The City of LA has its own food service law on the books. Plus, a new state law will require cities and counties to compost all of their organic materials, including food waste.

“If the food service is also compostable, then it makes it a whole lot easier within a restaurant, everything can go into one bin.”

Restaurants that are subject to the new law will be able to apply for a waiver that would exempt them for a year if they can show that the cost of new materials will have a significant economic impact on the business.

Violators will be fined up to $100 per day, to a maximum of $1,000 per year.



  • Gary Gero - Chief sustainability officer, City of Los Angeles


Chery Glaser