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Restaurants will have to ask before sending utensils with takeout orders in Denver

Denver City Council approved an ordinance that requires restaurants to ask takeout and delivery customers if they want things like utensils, napkins or straws.

DENVER — Denverites will soon need to request single-use utensils when ordering delivery or takeout. Otherwise, they won't get them. 

The Denver City Council Monday night voted unanimously to approve an ordinance that will stop restaurants and third-party delivery services from automatically requiring single-use items. Instead, it will require businesses to ask customers if they want those products.

The single-use accessories include items like plastic utensils, straws, napkins and condiment packets. Councilmember Kendra Black introduced the ordinance to help the city reduce waste, especially since takeout and delivery orders have increased during the pandemic.

"This small bill that will hopefully have a big impact on the use of some single-use plastic and waste," Black said during Monday night's meeting. "I describe this bill as a win, win, win."

It will be a few months until the ordinance goes into effect. The Office of Climate Action, Sustainability & Resiliency (CASR) will spend that time nailing down the rules and ways to enforce them.

The enforcement plan right now is complaint-based from customers. City officials said fines could be issued if complaints are not addressed.

Black said environmental groups suggested and backed the policy for its projected impact on reducing waste. She added residents have been in favor of the rule as well, because it will help them cut down on unused, single-use items piling up in their homes.

Black said she's received good feedback from restaurants too.

"Restaurants support it because they care about reducing waste, are responsive to their customers and will actually save money by providing these items only when customers want them," Black said.

The approval comes a few months before Denver's plastic bag fee will go into effect. The law will require retailers to charge 10 cents per plastic or paper bag. The law was supposed to begin in July 2020 but it took a backseat when the pandemic hit. 

It will now go into effect July 1.

RELATED: Denver OKs plastic bags fee ordinance

State lawmakers are also taking on the plastic issue. Earlier this month, lawmakers advanced a bill that would ban certain single-use plastics like plastic bags and Styrofoam containers commonly used for takeout orders at restaurants. 

RELATED: State lawmakers advance bill banning certain single-use plastics

The bill (HB21-1162) passed the State House on May 5. It was introduced in the State Senate on May 10.

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