Smile Politely

Bad Laws: Urbana’s mandatory disposable cup ordinance

Tree City USA, why are you so backward on environmental policy?

Yep, the City of Urbana insists that outdoor festivals use disposable cups, plates, cutlery. Maybe the president of Solo Cup slipped a bribe to the mayor. You’d hope it’s something like that. Otherwise, mandating landfill expansion seems contrary to public policy, including Urbana’s stated quest for sustainability.

Smile Politely has already addressed the issue of single-use disposables in Urbana. But in this article, the solution was “recycling.” Reducing and re-using are always the preferred options. Recycling is not sustainable. It’s a stop-gap. Zero waste is the goal.

We’re living in an age where much of the country buys its dinner in a Styrofoam clamshell, and drives it home in an SUV.

How many U of I students don’t own cups and plates? I never thought to ask that question until I had a roommate who ate all his meals from disposable dishware. He didn’t like washing dishes, see?

In many cases, our public schools serve meals on Styrofoam, rather than employing dishwashers. I once wrote a Letter to the Editor shaming Fraternities and Sororities into hiring someone from the community to wash dishes. This was after discovering that one (many?) particular frat was also serving meals on Styrofoam. That seems not only unappetizing, but not in keeping with the “public service organization” (nudge, wink) theme. Maybe things have changed since I was in college. But as far as I can tell, disposables are more pervasive than ever.

Personally, I find food and wine unappetizing when it’s served in plastic or paper.
You’d think the People’s Republic of Urbana might be the last place on earth where you could find laws that promote reusables.

But, no.

It’s buried in Urbana’s convoluted liquor ordinance, so even if you go looking for it, it’s hard to find. Here it is, in bold.

If any T Class license involves serving either alcoholic liquors or food out-of-doors other than at a market event, then the following shall be applicable:
The application shall designate the license applicant as the agent of the owner of record for service of a notice to remove all refuse, litter, debris, garbage and the like for the notice of lien as set forth in subsection (f) below. Only paper or plastic products may be used to serve alcoholic liquor or food;

Why only alcoholic liquor? What about alcoholic beer and wine? What about Pepsi-Cola? 

Surely the risk of cutting your foot on a shard of glass is not reduced because that glass contained barley wine, or German-American tap water? 

And why does the rule not apply at a market event? How is the asphalt of Lincoln Square’s parking lot safer for your toes than the grass at Crystal Lake Park?

Obviously people can’t bring their own forks and knives to festivals. How would we differentiate them, so armed, from terrorists? 

Travel mugs and Tupperware are out, too. That would violate the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District’s crazed food safety codes … a story for another column.

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