Restaurants

Why utensils, condiments and napkins will no longer be included in NYC delivery orders

NBC Universal, Inc.

Expect to see a big cut to the amount of cutlery that comes with food delivery orders in New York City.

Under a new law in the city going into effect on Monday, restaurants won't be forking over utensils in takeout and delivery orders any longer — at least not without the customer stating so. Those placing the order will have to ask for the single-use utensils be included with the food.

It's not just utensils, either. Don't expect to see restaurants packing the bag with ketchup packets nor napkins. So that drawer full of plastic forks and knives, or plastic baggie full of old ketchup, soy sauce and duck sauce packs, will now finally come in handy, as far fewer of those items will be automatically included with the order.

“Let’s be real: Most people have utensils at home. And all we do is save those packets," said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director at Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "I would bet you most homes in New York City have a drawer stuffed full of plastic forks and knives and spoons in plastic wrapping that are unopened.”

All delivery apps must set the default setting to not include those items, but have a way for customers to request the items if they so choose.

The new measure is part of a law Mayor Eric Adams signed earlier in 2023 that is aimed at reducing plastic waste in the city, which has been called the "Skip the Stuff" legislation. Restaurants that are found to not comply could face up to a $250 fine for each offense after a year-long warning phase. Inspectors are expected to make near-annual visits to restaurants to keep an eye on compliance.

The mayor's office estimated that in 2019 about 36 millions pounds of single-use plastic foodware was collected from NYC's residential waste stream.

“These plastics, they don’t really degrade and go away,” said Enrico Nardone, executive director of Seatuck Environmental Association, a nonprofit based at the Suffolk County Environmental Center in Islip. “They breakdown into smaller and smaller pieces, but there’s still plastics that are being consumed throughout the food chain ... and ending up in the bodies of all types of wildlife and having negative impacts.”

NYC is not the first city to enact a law taking aim at the items coming in delivery orders. Los Angeles made disposable foodware available at restaurants only when requested by customers in Nov. 2021. That ordinance prohibits facilities from having self-service disposable foodware dispensers and from providing or offering disposable foodware accessories to dine-in customers and take-out customers, except when requested. 

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