California Festivals Could Serve Food with Reusable Containers

Events like Outside Lands are forced to serve food on single-use items that often get tossed in the landfill.

(Courtesy photo)

Beer cups, plates and bottles are a common sight on festival grounds but if a state bill is passed, vendors would no longer be forced to solely serve single-use food ware that contributes to the mess.

Assemblymember David Chiu, who represents San Francisco, announced on Wednesday a new bill that would allow reusable food ware at temporary events. Current state law requires reusable containers to be cleaned at approved facilities, which aren’t at festivals like San Francisco’s own Outside Lands or Clusterfest.

“Having fun at a concert or festival does not have to result in a sea of trash,” Chiu said in a statement. “This bill gives event organizers the ability to make greener choices and reduce landfill waste.”

To be fair, many events statewide and in San Francisco have tried to reduce waste but even compostable and recyclable single-use materials end up in the landfill. Chiu’s office also points out that many jurisdictions don’t have the resources to recycle plastic food containers or even have composting programs.

Recycling has also become more expensive countrywide since China stopped accepting used plastic and paper. That has helped bolster the movement to prevent waste in the first place.

“As the founder of several popular outdoor California music festivals, I know firsthand how much we need this reasonable law change,” said Barnett English, founder and producer of festivals including the Joshua Tree Music Festival and the Guitarfish Music Festival. “Many food and beverage vendors at my events want the option to provide their own reusable servingware, and festival attendees want to reduce the amount of trash they create.”

Vendors would get authorization to serve food on reusable containers from local health enforcement, which would require them to hold up strict food safety standards. Chiu’s bill also clarifies legal language around restaurant customers bringing in their own reusable food ware, which food services are often confused about.

The legislature’s health committee is expected to take up Assembly Bill 619 on Tuesday.

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