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Server Kaitlyn Bates works on a ...
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
Server Kaitlyn Bates works on a To-Go-order at Nobel Riot Wine Bar or now Nobel Fry-it on March 18, 2020 in Denver. Noble Riot, a RiNo wine bar which was about to celebrate its year anniversary, has had to completely change their business model to become Noble Fry-it, a fried chicken pickup/delivery business.

Restaurants and other businesses in Denver must soon ask customers whether they want single-use items like utensils or condiment packages with takeout orders rather than automatically including them.

Denver City Council unanimously approved the measure Monday night. Once it’s signed by Mayor Michael Hancock, it will take effect in the coming months instead of immediately because some of the finer details will need to be worked out by the city’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability & Resiliency.

It’s a simple change to require businesses where in-person takeout orders are done to ask customers whether they want disposable utensils and more, sponsoring Councilwoman Kendra Black said, Those same businesses and delivery apps like GrubHub or Postmates will have to include an option for single-use utensils for online orders.

“I know we all have drawers in our kitchen that are full of old ketchup packets and soy sauce packets and forks that we never use and they will end up in the landfill,” Black said at a committee meeting last month. “If we don’t get them to begin with, we won’t dispose of them and they won’t end up in the landfill.”

The law falls in line with another one Black co-sponsored in late 2019 that requires retail stores to charge customers 10 cents for each single-use plastic or paper bag they use. City officials held off on starting the fees as the pandemic began and people became more reliant on delivery and takeout, though that law will start July 1.

The new law also moves Denver away from relying on plastics that typically aren’t recycled, according to the city’s former chief sustainability officer, Jerry Tinianow, who now works as a sustainability consultant.

“It gets people thinking, helps all of us be a little more mindful,” Tinianow said.

Enforcing the new law will be based entirely on complaints, which is not something over which city officials can consistently keep watch. If restaurants or other businesses do receive a complaint, they will have the opportunity to fix the problem before they are fined, Black said.