By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver City Council unanimously approved a bill on Monday night to require businesses to ask customers to opt-in for single use products like plastic forks, chopsticks, or condiment packets when they order takeout from a restaurant or use a food delivery app service. Rules will be developed in the months ahead before the ordinance takes effect by the start of 2022.

(credit: CBS)

“I would guess that most people have a drawer full of these items and there’s really nothing to do with them,” said Council Member Kendra Black, District 4. “They’re not recyclable and I think most people end up throwing them away.”

Kendra Black (credit: CBS)

Black told CBS4 on Tuesday that environmental groups have made a national effort to encourage local governments to take this step. The use of these items has increased significantly during the pandemic. Black says one agency reported that takeout and delivery is up 300 percent.

Denver City Council has also taken steps to reduce the use of plastic bags. The Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency will create the specific rules, which can evolve with the changing delivery app business.

“Especially as a small business owner, everything costs,” said Fathima Dickerson on Tuesday, the owner of Welton Street Cafe. “It’s putting you in the doghouse as a small business, especially trying to get back on your feet through a pandemic.”

Fathima Dickerson (credit: CBS)

As restaurants prepare for the minimum wage to go up, Dickerson is looking for ways to save money. Her business in the Five Points neighborhood is dependent on takeout orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is what I need, this is what I don’t need, save it for the next person and that’s critical as well,” Dickerson explained what her customers tell her. “They’re feeding their family and so a lot of times they already have the supplies, the condiments that they need.”

She spoke to CBS4 inside the restaurant showing some of the many products they buy to keep their restaurant operating with to-go orders. Dickerson hopes to return to in-person dining soon at the Welton Street Café.

(credit: CBS)

“I have always been very concerned with single use plastic and in our new sort of delivery world there is an extraordinary amount of packaging,” Black said on a video conference call Tuesday. “Before I even get to the end of the line, they’ve already put my food in a bag with a fork and a napkin and wait, wait, wait, I don’t want that fork.”

Black also cites a pilot program by GrubHub in New York and New Jersey where she says 80% of the people who had to opt-in for plastic items chose not to ask for any with their order. She says there weren’t any complaints either.

“We need to think about it because it does go to a landfill and a lot of it ends up in litter, we’ve all seen the islands of plastic floating in the ocean,” she said. “We have clean-up days in our rivers and our waterways and in our parks, the majority of items are single use plastics.”

Shawn Chitnis