A proposal to limit the distribution of single-use foodware by River Forest restaurants, which includes straws, plastic utensils and napkins, is on hold until village officials can resolve an issue regarding how the proposal would affect drive-thru restaurants.

An ordinance proposed by the Sustainability Commission and supported by village officials was expected to be approved at the May 23 village board meeting but the matter was tabled after Village President Cathy Adduci said representatives from the McDonald’s at 624 Harlem Ave. raised concerns regarding drive-thrus. That McDonald’s is the only drive-thru in the village.

According to Adduci, McDonald’s representatives were unable to raise the issue because they did not attend the May 10 Sustainability Commission public hearing on the proposed ordinance, nor were they able to attend the May 23 village board meeting.

Trustee Respicio Vazquez supported tabling the matter until after McDonald’s representatives could meet with village staff members.

“We should give them that courtesy,” he said.

Eric Simon, commission chair, said “not a lot of people” attended the public hearing, which was conducted in person at village hall and by Zoom. He said four comments were made, none by businesses. In fact, the commission received no direct feedback from businesses although over 40 affected businesses were invited to provide input, he added.

Under the proposed ordinance, River Forest restaurants would no longer give customers single-use foodware unless specifically requested. If approved, customers who want plastic utensils, condiments and more would need to ask for them. Drive-thrus were exempt under a draft of the proposed ordinance but not in the final version of the ordinance that was presented May 23.

According to the commission, the proposed ordinance, if approved, would require establishments that sell food and beverages only to provide these items for take-out and delivery orders at the customer’s request, meaning customers would have to “opt-in” to receive them. Village officials stressed that the proposed ordinance would neither tax nor prohibit the distribution of single-use foodware. Rather, the purpose of the ordinance is to limit the unnecessary distribution of single-use plastics, which generates a significant amount of waste, they said.

Adduci instructed Village Administrator Brian Murphy to meet with McDonald’s representatives to address the issue and indicated she hoped the ordinance would be presented for consideration at the next village board meeting on June 27.

“This is a good thing to do for our village,” Adduci said.

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.

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

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.

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 straws, 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 beverage lids or items used to contain or package food or beverages for delivery or take-out orders.

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