Even if you stick to reusable containers at home—and wash and reuse your disposable plastics whenever possible—living a sustainable, zero-waste lifestyle isn't always easy, especially when you're getting takeout that involves to-go bags and boxes that are destined for the trash. Well, according to Nation's Restaurant News, California recently passed a law that will make it easier for customers to bring their own reusable containers to restaurants in order to bring food home with them while cutting down on waste.
Previously, the standard policy at many restaurants in California was to decline taking outside containers (plastic storage, cups, etc.) into the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination. And those that did accept these containers would do so without clear guidelines from health departments. This new law, which was signed by governor Gavin Newsom in July, gives restaurants the choice to opt in to a safer, more regulated version of this practice.
According to the bill, establishments that want to use containers provided by patrons are under no legal obligation to clean them, and containers should ideally be filled someplace separate from the kitchen's serving surface. If they need to be filled on the same surface used for serving and food prep, the area should be sanitized immediately afterwards. Restaurants should also have a policy for preventing cross-contamination available to health inspectors in writing.
The law doesn't force restaurants to use foreign takeout containers if they don't want to. Rather, it gives businesses the option to follow more official guidelines about how reusable containers from customers can be implemented safely. In addition to leading to new to-go policies at restaurants, the bill could also change the way food stands at festivals and other events operate. Before, health codes required temporary foodservice sites to stick to disposable plates and utensils, but under the new law, reusable items will be allowed as long as they're cleaned on site or at an approved facility.
[h/t The Takeout]