Distribution of single-use foodware by River Forest restaurants to take-out and delivery customers will be limited following action by the Village Board of Trustees on June 27.

Under the ordinance, which was proposed by the Sustainability Commission, River Forest restaurants will no longer give customers single-use foodware unless specifically requested. Customers who want plastic utensils, condiments and more would need to ask for them. The ordinance was approved 4-0. Trustee Ken Johnson did not attend and Trustee Bob O’Connell abstained.

According to the commission, the ordinance requires establishments that sell food and beverages to provide these items for take-out and delivery orders at the customer’s request only, meaning customers would have to “opt-in” to receive them. Village officials stressed that the proposed ordinance would not 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.

The ordinance 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. had raised concerns regarding drive-thrus. McDonald’s is the only drive-thru in the village.

In a memo to village officials, Sara Phyfer, management analyst, said a McDonald’s representative met with staff members and Sustainability Chair Eric Simon, June 6, to discuss safety concerns regarding the drive-thru as well as to share some of the company’s sustainability initiatives, which are expected to be announced in the near future. In response to a request to meet with the Sustainability Commission to discuss the drive-thru matter, a special meeting was held on June 22, but the McDonald’s representative was unable to attend.

Phyfer said the version of the ordinance that was approved June 27 is “largely the same” as what was proposed on May 23. The only changes were replacing “Styrofoam” with “polystyrene foam,” plus title language to clarify the purpose of the ordinance.

The 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 such a step.

Trustee Lisa Gillis, 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, 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.

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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