Palo Alto cracks down on plastic: Straws, produce and meat bags will be a no-no

The Palo Alto City Council unanimously voted Monday night to prevent the distribution of plastic straws, utensils and stirrers in all food service establishments starting this January and produce and meat bags in grocery stores and farmers markets starting in July 2020.

San Francisco, Berkeley and Alameda have already banned the use of plastic straws and utensils. Palo Alto, however, is the first to also prohibit plastic produce and meat bags at grocery stores and farmers markets, Bay Area News group reported.

The proposed bans are part of a larger city effort — called its Zero Waste Plan — to divert 95 percent of its waste from landfills and reduce 80 percent of its greenhouse gases by 2030.

The plan calls for a phased implementation, which many residents, environmentalists and at least one city council member voiced strong opposition to, because they wanted the crackdown to begin sooner, rather than later,  the Bay Area News Group reported.

Phase 1 was voted on Monday night. Phase two, which the city plans to implement in 2021, would require all food service establishments to charge for non-reusable cups and containers, provide reusable foodware items to all dine-in customers and install dishwashers. The last phase, planned for 2025, would require food service establishments to provide reusable foodware for all takeout orders.

The proposed ordinance would mandate that all straws, utensils, stirrers and produce and meat bags be made of compostable or reusable materials and that businesses only distribute plastic products upon request, according to the staff report. The ordinance does not apply to plastic food or beverage containers.