You’ll need to request single-use utensils at restaurants beginning Jan. 1

Law prohibits automatic distribution of single-use items by restaurants and other providers

When your local fast-food server asks if you want fries with your order, you’ll also need to ask for utensils, condiments or straws to toss into the bag.

That’s because beginning Jan. 1, Washington restaurants will no longer automatically include single-use food-service items with food orders. A new state law restricts the use of these items and prohibits packaged bundles of single-use items in order to reduce waste and litter — although customers can still request items.

Single-use service ware items covered by the new requirements include:

• Utensils (knives, forks, spoons or chopsticks).

• Cocktail picks, splash sticks and stirrers.

• Straws.

• Condiment packets, sachets or sauce cups.

• Cold cup lids, except those provided at drive-through windows or events with over 2,500 people in attendance.

To receive a single-use item, customers must request it, confirm their choice when asked or select the item from a self-service station.

“Automatically including disposable silverware, straws and condiments with every order create a huge amount of waste, much of which ends up littering our roads and damaging our environment,” said Laurie Davies, manager of the Solid Waste program at the state Department of Ecology.

Davies said nearly one trillion single-use food-service products are disposed or littered each year in the U.S., according to a 2021 Upstream report. Single-use food service ware items are also major contaminants that decrease the value of recycled materials.