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Yountville holds off on creating disposable foodware rules in lieu of county, state efforts

While cities across the state have begun creating local ordinances requiring all food purveyors to use only 100% compostable or reusable utensils, containers, straws and other food packaging, Yountville has yet to enforce any such rules. | Photo By Kim Beltran

The idea of forcing food vendors, via ordinance, to use only compostable or reusable utensils and containers has come up on the Yountville Town Council’s radar several times over the past year.

Most recently at a goal-setting meeting last month, putting staff time toward an effort to reduce single-use, carry-out plastics failed to make the council’s list of top priorities, although several members did want the topic addressed.

Mayor Marjorie Mohler said there’s no need for the town to take on the effort because a sweeping state law is being rolled out that puts the responsibility for sustainable packaging on product manufacturers.

“SB 54 is going to blow these single-use plastics in Yountville, in my opinion, out of the water,” Mohler said during the goal-setting session. “This is something where anything that comes in to the state of California has to be recyclable or easily disposable. It’s basically banning all plastics.”

SB 54 does, in fact, put the onus for removing harmful or unrecyclable plastics from the waste stream on packaging manufacturers. 

The bill, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2022, “requires all covered materials offered for sale, distributed or imported into the state on or after Jan. 1, 2032, to be recyclable in the state or eligible to be labeled ‘compostable.’” It is an extensive bill with numerous regulations and requirements – all aimed at reducing the amount of plastics being generated.

Some communities have chosen to move ahead with their own laws to restrict or reduce the use of throw-away foodware items that don’t break down and can’t be recycled. Among these items are containers, plates, cups, lids, straws, stirrers, utensils, condiment cups and packets, toothpicks and food wrappers.

In California, more than 60 cities and counties, including the city of Calistoga, have created similar initiatives.

Napa County’s own Climate Action Committee is set to review and discuss a “Draft Reusable Food Ware and Waste Reduction Ordinance” on Feb. 23.

The document was released for public review and comment Feb. 12 and can be found at www.countyofnapa.org/589   

This ordinance, if ultimately adopted by the Board of Supervisors, would cover only food purveyors in the unincorporated areas of the county. However, said Napa County Special Projects Director David Morrison, local jurisdictions may revise and adopt the ordinance as they see fit to meet the individual needs of each community.

Morrison acknowledged that SB 54 and hundreds of other new state environmental laws will eventually have an impact on reducing harmful toxins of all kinds from being buried in landfills or released into the water and air.

But SB 54, he noted, doesn’t take effect until 2032.

“That’s still eight years away,” he said. “I think there are at least some members on the Climate Action Committee who want to take action sooner rather than later.

One of those is Pam Reeves, Yountville Town Council’s representative on the county’s CAC.

Reeves agreed with her peers at the goal-setting session that there were other more pressing matters that will require a majority of town staff’s time. But she hasn’t given up on the idea of adapting  the new CAC ordinance to Yountville.

“I forwarded the [CAC] draft to our town manager to have a look and see what his concerns or his interpretations might be...because my hope is that if we agree with the ordinance then we can move forward using that language.

“I mean we might add some things or subtract some things but we will be able to use it to our advantage,” she added.

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