Starting Jan. 1st, Bringing your Own Take-Out Containers in Arcata Gets You a Discount

ARCATA, Calif. (KIEM) – Starting January 1st, reusable containers will be accepted at restaurants in Arcata for food to-go. The goal is to reduce plastic waste from to-go containers.

While the ordinance was passed back in February 2020 the enforcement was delayed up until July 2021 due to the pandemic.

Jerry Swider, Environmental Programs Aid for the city explained that the new ordinance, “requires that all takeout containers are fiber-based compostable,” he said. “It also requires that accessory foodware is only given upon request like straws, napkins, things like that. It also allows restaurants to fill customers’ reusable containers.”

Sandrine Thompson, another Environmental Programs Aid said that the ordinance should soon be implemented across the entire city.

“January 1st, 2023, that’s when we’re hoping to really start seeing things rolling,” she said.

January 1st is when the fee and discount portion of the legislation will take effect.

“You’ll get a 25-cent discount per order when you go to a restaurant that has to-go orders, and then if you don’t have your own reusable, then you’ll be charged $0.25 per order,” said Thompson.

Thompson explained that they have currently not been enforcing the ordinance nor do they have a method of enforcement selected. She said that complaint-based enforcement is the most likely method.

Many community members are pleased with the new environmentally friendly ordinance.

Joanne McGarry, a local climate activist, and environmentalist is delighted with the legislation.

“I’m totally happy about this ordinance because it’s a step in the right direction,” she said.

Mcgarry is not new to the world of reusable containers. She provides a free service to the community, lending out reusable containers for events.

“I loan them out. I bring it back, I wash it, I sanitize it, and I loan it out again. And it’s been used close to a hundred times,” said McGarry.

But, some grapple with the thought of contamination. The backlash the ordinance has received comes from an area of concern.

“I understand people’s concerns about cross-contamination and all that, but there are systems in place,” said McGarry.

Backed by the Humboldt County Department of Environmental Health (DOEH), the city requires a protocol for disinfection. Putting some of those cross-contamination concerns at ease.

“So in between each customer, if somebody brings a Tupperware and it sits on a surface, you fill it with food and then you actually have to disinfect between each customer,” said Thompson.

Thompson explained that the city sent out a sample protocol for disinfection and handling of personal containers. Every facility is to create its own protocol to avoid cross-contamination. The DOEH is open to working with businesses on developing these protocols.

It is advised to call ahead to a business before bringing in your containers.

“Be sure to reach out in advance to see what their protocols are for reusables and get that discount,” said Swider.

For more information you can visit: Disposable Foodware Regulations | Arcata, CA (

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