Los Angeles will make diners ask for ketchup to go with their fries, in the name of fighting climate change

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Los Angeles officials will look to respond to climate change with big changes in a little package by banning the distribution of ketchup packets at restaurants – unless customers first ask for one. 

The new ordinance will forbid restaurants with 26 or more employees from handing out ketchup and mustard packets without customers requesting them. The ordinance will apply to all restaurants by April 2022. 

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a similar ordinance in October that will go into effect by June 2022 at the latest. The state law expands an existing law prohibiting the distribution of plastic straws to apply to any single-use food accessory. 

A new Los Angeles ordinance will make diners ask for ketchup, mustard, and other condiment packets or restaurants will be fined for supplying them. (Red Robin)

"If we are to overcome the extreme climate challenges we face, we will have to alter or otherwise transform all our habits relating to fossil fuel products, including plastics, and our essential natural resources, like forests," said ordinance co-author Councilmember Paul Koretz in a press release. "Skipping the stuff to stop the frivolous waste of napkins and plasticware is another step forward as we work together towards a healthier future that can sustain us all."

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Koretz previously claimed that restaurants that switched to by-request utensils saved between $3,000 and $21,000 per year, Spectrum News reported. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom listens to questions during a news conference outside a restaurant in San Francisco on June 3. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) (AP Photo/Eric Risberg / AP Newsroom)

The city council first requested an ordinance on plastics in restaurants drafted in March 2021. The ordinance would ultimately apply to all plastic products in a restaurant, including plastic utensils, as well as limiting the use of napkins, toothpicks and other single-use items. 

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"This ordinance helps both the environment and our economy," said Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, chair of the Council’s committee on Energy, Climate Change, Environmental Justice and the Los Angeles River. "By focusing on education and changing people's behavior, we can achieve sustainable success in the long run. We're also helping small businesses, who spend billions of dollars a year on disposable products."

A man eats a cheeseburger and french fries at a McDonald’s restaurant. A new Los Angeles ordinance will ban free condiments unless diners ask for them first. (Photo by MIRA OBERMAN / AFP) (Photo by MIRA OBERMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Food delivery services such as DoorDash and UberEats must also comply with the ordinance, which will carry a $25 fine for each day of non-compliance, capped at $300 per year. 

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"Plastic utensils and condiment packets create unnecessary trash, pollute waterways and harm marine life," State Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo tweeted about the legislation she authored for Newsom.

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