River Forest restaurants would no longer give customers single-use plastic foodware unless specifically requested under an ordinance proposed by the village’s Sustainability Commission and supported by elected officials.

If approved, customers who want plastic utensils, individually packaged condiments and more will need to ask for them.

The proposed ordinance is the subject of a public hearing to be held in person at 7 p.m. May 10 at River Forest Village Hall, 400 Park Ave. It also will be available on Zoom.

According to the commission, the proposed ordinance, if approved, would require establishments that sell food and beverages to provide these items for takeout and delivery orders at the customer’s request only, meaning customers would have to “opt-in” to receive them.

Notably, this proposed ordinance would not tax nor prohibit the distribution of single-use foodware, according to an announcement from the commission regarding the meeting. Rather, the purpose of this ordinance is to limit the unnecessary distribution of single-use plastics, which generates a significant amount of waste.

The proposed River Forest ordinance is modeled after one implemented by Chicago in January. According to village officials, not only is Chicago the only municipality in Illinois to implement such an ordinance, but also no other municipality is known to be considering taking such a step.

Eric Simon, chair of the Sustainability Commission, said the commission had received no feedback following the announcement.

“You can always be surprised, but I don’t suspect there will be any objections,” he said. “It’s not controversial.

“Our goal is to have a minimal effect on the business community.”

Trustee Lisa Gillis, who is the village board’s liaison to the commission, said Village President Cathy Adduci brought back the idea for the ordinance from a PlanIt Green meeting in January. After consultation involving herself, Village Administrator Brian Murphy and Village Attorney Greg Smith, Adduci brought the matter to the commission, Gillis added.  

PlanItGreen is a sustainability planning and implementation project seeded by the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation’s Communityworks Partnership that has engaged residents, businesses and institutions in developing a two-community, 10-year sustainability plan for the villages of Oak Park and River Forest.

Village officials have proactively contacted over 40 businesses to invite them to provide input at the May 10 meeting, according to Gillis. 

The proposed ordinance defines a single-use food item as any eating utensil or other item to be used as part of food or beverage service that is designed and intended by the manufacturer for only one usage before being discarded, including forks, spoons, sporks, knives, chopsticks, other eating utensils, stirrers, drink stoppers, splash sticks, cocktail sticks, toothpicks, napkins, wet-wipes, cup sleeves, beverage trays, disposable plates, and condiment packets.

Not considered to be single-use foodware are straws, beverage lids or items used to contain or package food or beverages for delivery or takeout orders.

Simon, who has been commission chair for less than a year and is the last original member of the seven-member commission since its creation in 2017, said he expects the village board to address the issue in June.

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