Skip the Stuff, Say No to Single-Use Condiments & Service Ware

1. Overview/Resources for Retailers

Denver’s Single-Use Accessory Restriction Ordinance went into effect January 2022. This ordinance requires all retail food establishments to provide single-use condiments and single-use service ware only upon request by a customer. Our hope is that this will drastically reduce the amount of condiments, plastic silverware, and straws restaurants need to buy and make Denver a leader in the sustainability space. 

We want to make ordinance as easy as possible on your restaurants, staff and customers. Together we will: 

  • Reduce the amount of waste generated by single-use items
  • Change customer habits regarding single-use items 
  • Help your restaurants reduce unnecessary costs

To make this ordinance easy to implement, the City of Denver has created printable materials to educate your customers and staff. Materials are in Vietnamese, Spanish, and English. If you need them materials, please email sustainability@denvergov.org. We are happy to provide signage in other languages. Thank you for helping us reduce waste in Denver!   

 

If your establishment would like signage in a specific language, please email sustainability@denvergov.org. We are happy to provide signage in other languages.

2. Why #SkipTheStuff? 

The #SkipTheStuff program allows restaurants to save money and resources by encouraging customers to use what they already have at home.  

Skip the stuff. It’s that easy.  

  • In 2018, 35.7 million tons of plastic were generated in the U.S., and 27 million tons of plastic were landfilled. Only 8.7% of plastic was recycled. (EPA, 2018) Single-use condiments and single-use service ware contribute to this plastic waste.  
  • Starting January 2022 restaurants and third-party delivery services are required to only provide single-use condiments and single-use service ware when requested by a customer. 
  • The ordinance does not apply to: 
    • Self-service stations inside restaurants 
    • Special events 
    • Prepackaged items that include single-use items 
    • Meals provided as part of a social service  
    • Meals provided to guests in hotels
  • Third-party delivery services may use single-use items that prevent spills, such as spill plugs and cup lids.

 

3. Frequently Asked Questions

General

When does the #SkipTheStuff program take effect?

The program took effect January 2022. 

Why is Denver regulating single-use condiments and single-use service ware?

Many retail food establishments give single-use items with takeout and delivery orders, even if a customer does not request them. This results in:
  • Added costs for the establishment
  • Increased waste
  • Unnecessary use of natural resources
These items fill junk drawers, litter streets and waterways, or end up in a landfill, mostly unused.

What items are single-use condiments or single-use service ware?

Single-use condiments are packaged. Examples of single serve condiments include:
  • Sauces (like ketchup, relish, mayo, mustard, soy sauce, salad dressing, hot sauce)
  • Seasonings (like salt, pepper, parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes)
  • Spreads (like cream cheese, jelly, butter)
Single-use food service ware includes but is not limited to:
  • Knives, forks, spoons, sporks, and chopsticks
  • Napkins
  • Straws
  • Stirrers, splash sticks, and cocktail sticks

Are single-use condiments and single-use service ware recyclable?

No. Condiment packets and utensils are not recyclable. Please place single-use condiment packets and single-use service ware in the trash.

What else can I do to reduce take-out waste?

Visit Zero Waste Denver to learn how you can practice Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Can a customer request single-use condiments and single-use service ware from retail food establishments?

Yes. A customer can request any single-use item at a retail food establishment. Customers should always be specific about what items they need. 

A Denver retail food establishment put condiments and service ware in my take-out bag that I did not request. How do I report this?

You can report retail food establishments that you believe are not complying with #SkipTheStuff program by submitting a Report a Retail Food Establishment form. Please know that the city will attempt to assist the restaurant with coming into compliance before issuing any financial penalties. 

Does the #SkiptheStuff program apply to third-party delivery services?

Yes. This program also applies to third-party delivery services. Certain single-use items used to prevent spills and deliver food and beverages safely, such as cup lids, spill plugs and beverage holders, are exempt.

Why not ban these items?

The goal of this program is to encourage less waste by giving consumers the choice to request only what they need, while also allowing consumers and retailers an opportunity to think about reducing waste and changing habits. 

 

 

 

 


Retail Food Establishments

Can my retail food establishment offer single-use items?

Yes, but you must be specific in which items you are offering, and you must not offer all single-use items as once. For example:

  • “What utensils would you like with your order?”
  • “Would you like napkins with your order?”
  • “What condiments do you need with your order?”

Do I need to display signage?

Yes. Denver requires all Retail Food Establishments display signage at the point of order, informing customers about the requirement to request need items. The city has some printable signage for you in the Resources for Retailers section of this website and the city will mail pre-printed signs in January.

If your establishment would like signage in a specific language, please email sustainability@denvergov.org. We are happy to provide signage in other languages.

What are the penalties for a retail food establishment that does not follow the #SkipTheStuff program?

Any retail food establishment that does not comply will first receive a written warning. A subsequent violation can result in a fine of $999.  Retail food establishments can request assistance any time by contacting sustainability@denvergov.org. The city will work with you to come into compliance before any fines will be considered.

I provide meals to vulnerable populations and need single-use items to keep people fed. Is this service exempt?

Yes. Meals provided as part of a social service to vulnerable populations, school systems, homeless shelters or programs for the elderly are exempt. If you believe that your business does not meet the requirements outlined in the ordinance, please complete the Exemption Form. If you have further questions about exemptions, please contact sustainability@denvergov.org

My retail food establishment uses all compostable service ware for my customers. Are these items exempt from this ordinance?

No. Compostable service ware items are still single-use products. All single-use materials require energy and resources to produce. The intent of this program is to reduce waste by avoiding unnecessary items. Relying on single-use items, no matter the material, creates unnecessary waste. Reusable service ware is the best long-term, sustainable solution.

I believe my business should be exempt from this ordinance.

If your business has been contacted by our office to comply with this ordinance and you believe that your business does not meet the requirements outlined in the ordinance, please complete the Exemption Form. Approvals may take up to two weeks and require a visit by our staff.  

  

 


Delivery Service & Third Party Delivery Platforms

What single-use items can I offer my customers?

Delivery services can only offer customers single-use items that the retail food establishment offers. They may not offer supplemental items that do not come from the restaurant.

Online ordering platforms must enable customers to choose which single use items they want to receive with their order. This information must be transmitted to the restaurant to fulfill accordingly.

How do I protect against spills during transport?

Delivery services may use single-use items that prevent spills and help safely deliver food and beverages, such as cup lids, spill plugs and trays.