The New York City Council is striking again. These wonders are pushing their cutely named Choose 2 Reuse bill, which
aims to improve sustainability in the restaurant business, but would add some friction to a customer experience that is typically defined by its convenience. Consumers would be asked to later return their reusable food containers, knives, forks, and chopsticks either through delivery or logistics partners who come to pick them up or in person via receptacles at participating restaurants. The bill doesn’t require reusable beverage containers.
It’s interesting that the City Council excludes beverage containers. There was a time when beverage containers—soda bottles, for instance—could be returned for a return of a deposit paid when the (sodas) were sold, a practice that enabled more than a few boys and girls to earn a bit of extra money by collecting up the bottles and doing the return. And there never was a problem cleaning the then-glass bottles for reuse, nor was there a liability problem arising from the reuse of inadequately cleaned bottles.
That sort of thing fell into disfavor when tin, and later aluminum, cans proved easier and cheaper to manufacture (and wend their way through the bottling process)—and far from being one-use disposable, they could be recycled through a different chain.
Now NYC is bent on reverting to that greater cost—never minding that one-use food containers for takeout are easily manufactured for breakdown and return to the soil when disposed of in landfills. Or in many jurisdictions, converted to mulch for DIY gardeners. Or recycled for yet other non-food related uses.
Now, in addition to the added costs inflicted on restaurants and consumers alike, the Wonders of the Council also want to expose the city’s restaurants to liability through suits centered on real or imagined food poisoning from allegedly inadequately cleaned-for-reuse containers and utensils. Even stipulating that utensils would no longer be included (presumably by restaurant choice; nothing in the proposed bill suggests this)—requiring consumers to use their own—the containers would need to be made sturdy enough to survive the restaurant’s dishwashers—or to survive the consumers’ dishwashers, should they be offered a discount for doing the cleaning for the restaurant. And which the restaurant would have no guarantee that the consumer had cleaned the containers well enough to meet the government standards imposed on the restaurant.