Later this month the Newton City Council will consider banning the sale or distribution of more than one dozen plastic items and limiting the availability of many other items.
Most of the proposed rules would change the way our restaurants do business. Many retailers would be impacted too.
Among other things, the ordinance would forbid the sale of plastic water bottles, plastic floss sticks, plastic ear swabs, cosmetics containing plastic glitter, non-recyclable plastic containers, and packing materials.
I can tell you right now: My dentist is not going to be happy if there’s a floss stick ban.
Before I go any further, before you email, let's acknowledge Mr. McGuire led my generation astray. I understand why this is being proposed. Single-use plastics and their byproducts are devastating to our waterways and our communities. They’re a health risk to humans, to animals, and to our future. They generate billions of tons of greenhouse gases.
For example, under the new ordinance restaurants could only provide plasticware or single-use condiment packages upon request, as opposed to leaving them on the counter, or automatically adding them to our takeout orders.
Another provision allows customers to bring their own clean takeout containers to fill themselves in order to take home leftovers, something virtually every restaurant owner I’ve spoken to thought was already permitted.
Other proposed rules, such as a prohibition on the use or sale of black plastic takeout containers (which are not recyclable) are well intended, but impractical. That’s because there’s long been a supply chain shortage of white or clear containers. Restaurateurs say they’re just not consistently available.
Compostable containers are an allowed alternative. But they’re costly and don’t work well for all food, such as those with sauces or gravy. (Plus too many users toss 'em in the trash anyway.)
Restaurants would also be required to only use reusable dishware and utensils for dine-in customers. Sound good. But with labor shortages, not all restaurants (think busy coffee shops in the morning, pizza places when the high school gets out, etc.) are always able or equipped, to wash every item.
Our restaurants and other chamber businesses fully appreciate the negative environmental consequences of plastics. We live here too.
But many of these ideas should be regulated state-wide, not one community at a time.
Still, we look forward to having a productive conversation with the council about crafting a responsible policy that helps reduce plastic waste, while being mindful of unintended consequences.