Home Events + News Limit on Single-Use Plastics at Hoboken Restaurants Approved by City Council

Limit on Single-Use Plastics at Hoboken Restaurants Approved by City Council

by Stephanie Spear
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The Hoboken City Council has approved a proposal that will change the way customers get single-use plastic items at restaurants and cafes. The ‘Stop the Stuff’ movement aims to reduce single-use plastics by putting the burden on customers to request the items when ordering take-out meals. Read on for more about the new ordinance and what it means for restaurants and patrons.

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About the Ordinance

The ordinance is titled “An Ordinance to Prohibit the Distribution of Plastic Single-Use Food Service Items and Non-Plastic Single-Use Food Service Items for Take-Out or Delivery Orders, Unless Requested by a Customer in the City of Hoboken.” It was passed unanimously at its first reading on Wednesday, May 15th. Sponsor Tiffanie Fisher, Councilwoman for Hoboken’s 2nd ward, calls it ‘Skip the Stuff’. The ordinance was approved on second reading at the City Council’s June 5th meeting, per TapInto Hoboken

The items included in the ordinance are defined as:

(a) “Beverage Splash Stick” means a device primarily intended to be used to keep heat and liquid from escaping a lidded cup.

(b) “Beverage Stirrer” means a device primarily intended for stirring beverages.

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(c) “Condiment Pack” means an individual single-use container, sealed by the manufacturer or restaurant, containing a condiment.

(d) “Plastic” means any synthetic, or semi-synthetic material made from polymers or from renewable or biological sources, including but not limited to vegetable fats and oils, polysaccharides, sugar, or proteins.

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(e) “Restaurant” or “Food Service Provider” means any eating or beverage establishment within the City of Hoboken, which offers for sale food or beverages to the public, guests, members, or patrons, whether consumption occurs on or off the premises or is provided from a food van, pushcart, stand or vehicle.

(f) “Single-Use Food Service Items” is interchangeable with “to go” packaging and “food packaging material” and includes, but is not limited to: utensils, napkins, condiment packs, straws, beverage splash sticks, beverage stirrers and other items designed for one-time use (includes single-use plastic and non-plastic items).

Customers can ask for these items and don’t have to give a reason why. The ordinance also doesn’t apply to self-service stations at food or grocery establishments. The main thing required of restaurants is to switch the default settings on third-party ordering apps to not provide plasticware and utensils, instead making the customer opt-in to receiving the items.

The ordinance also introduces a penalty structure for restaurants and food providers. It starts with a warning with time to correct, and then fees begin at $100.

Read More: Hoboken Now Requiring Garbage Cans to Have a Lid

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who introduced the bill, said that a violation would look like a situation where a restaurant is automatically including plastic ware with to-go items, or a restaurant handing out excessive amounts of plasticware. “The violation isn’t about punishment,” she said. “It’s about compliance and educating people.” She said that once the bill is formalized, there will be an education effort for local businesses.

The Bigger Picture

Interestingly, the enforcing agency is not a public health or restaurant inspection body, but the Hoboken Department of Climate. “The Director of the Department of Climate and Innovation or his/her designee, has the responsibility for enforcement of this chapter and may promulgate reasonable rules and regulations in order to enforce the provisions thereof, including, but not limited to, investigating violations and issuing fines.”

Hoboken spokesperson Marci Rubin pointed out that the effort to reduce single-use plastics is part of the City’s Zero Waste Initiative, which was launched last month. One of the measures in the plan is to reduce single-use food service waste, including a proposal that would launch a reusable food serviceware pilot program, similar to this ordinance.

Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla shared the following statement via his office, “This proposal is another step forward in Hoboken’s goals to reduce greenhouse gasses and has my full support. It is a net benefit for customers who may not need utensils, businesses in reducing their overall costs, and our environment with less waste. We will continue to pursue initiatives as part of our Climate Action Plan, to create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly City.”

 


 

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who is a co-sponsor of the ordinance along with Jen Giattino and Emily Jabbour, said she was inspired by ‘Skip the Stuff’, a national movement that encourages communities to pass legislation that will cut down on waste by focusing on single-use plastics. “I had read about it a while ago online and thought it was really interesting,” Councilwoman Fisher said. “But recently I ordered takeout for two people and it came with seven or eight sets of plasticware, all wrapped in plastic. It connected for me and I started to do more research.”

Other cities have passed similar legislation, including Garwood, NJ, Red Bank, NJ, and Manhattan. The ‘Skip the Stuff’ project offers model legislation for lawmakers to use to get started building their own policies, which is where Councilwoman Fisher got started. “It’s really more about compliance and education than enforcement,” she said. “It’s a cost-saving measure for restaurants and reduces waste. And it’s an easy change to make,” she said.

See More: Landscapers That Have Electric-Powered Leaf-Blowing Services in Montclair

Luca Infantino, the owner of Alessio’s, a cafe with locations in Hoboken and Jersey City, said that the proposal won’t impact him much. “We already default to making the plasticware up to the customer, they have to request it,” he said. He says he has operated his business this way from the beginning. “It reduces waste since so many of these items end up in the trash, and it reduces costs for me,” he said. “All of those items are getting more expensive over time, but I don’t have to buy as much.”

Another local restaurant we chatted with was the team behind Alfalfa, who shared the following statement from Rebecca Raslowsky, Alfalfa Project Joy Manager. “As a green-friendly business, Alfalfa fully supports this ordinance. This aligns perfectly with our commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility which we center in our Project Joy initiative. By reducing unnecessary waste, we can contribute to a more sustainable Hoboken.”  

What’s Next

The ordinance won’t take effect until September 1st, 2024, so restaurants can use the summer to get in compliance. Fines and other penalties won’t be assessed until November 1st, 2024, giving the community two months to get used to the new setup.

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