California city orders restaurants to use disposable plates, cups

Dive Brief:

  • The city of Fort Bragg, CA ordered restaurants to use disposable plates, cups, and flatware to cut down on dishwashing, and to serve water only if customers ask. The drought-stricken city declared a "stage 3" water emergency on Sept. 30, making it mandatory for businesses and residents to reduce water use by 30%. 
  • Restaurants, however, have complained so much that the City Council might consider easing the rule at its meeting on Tuesday. "You might be able to cut a filet mignon with a plastic knife, but you are not going to cut a New York," Jim Hurst, the co-owner of Silvers at the Wharf and Point Noyo Restaurant and Bar, told SF Gate. "The expense is going to be horrendous, I would expect. It seems to me there are other ways to save water."
  • The Noyo River, a main source of drinking water, is so low that ocean water is leaching into city pipes. Residents cannot water lawns, take long showers, or wash cars. 

Dive Insight:

A concerning issue of this ordinance is the amount of waste that disposable plates, cups, and flatware could create for restaurants, despite efforts that are made to compost and recycle them.

However, California's historic drought is causing hardship for all its residents, and this solution may be the lesser of two evils to try to save the environment. 

The earth's overall water supply is being wasted in many shocking ways, including being used on food that we throw away. "Globally, lost and wasted food accounts for 250 cubic kilometers of surface and groundwater resources. This is equivalent to 38 times the annual U.S. domestic water consumption, or three times the volume of Lake Geneva," explains John Mandyck in his new book Food Foolish. "In fact, the global freshwater loss related to food waste is higher than the national water usage of any country."

Both residents and corporations need to be more conscious of the water that they're using and the waste they're producing. Some companies, such as Google, are trying to do their part to cut back on water waste. At its main campus in Mountain View, CA, Google's use of drought-resistant landscaping and recycled water for irrigation will mean a 30% reduction in water use this year compared to 2013. And Fresno's ScrubCan bin-washing service uses free recycled water from the city.

Filed Under: Regulation
Top image credit: Wikimedia