Disposable food service ware and polystyrene foam ban model ordinance

Jurisdictions in Sonoma County have implemented or are considering a model ordinance, called the Ordinance to Prohibit Use and Sale of Disposable Food Service Ware and Other Products Containing Polystyrene Foam, to ban the sale of certain polystyrene foam products and limit the use of non-recyclable or non-compostable disposable food ware.

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What you need to know quick reference

What is being proposed

The model ordinance addresses five areas:

  1. Prohibits polystyrene foam food ware distributed by food and beverage providers.

  2. Prohibits polystyrene foam food ware and specified polystyrene foam products sold by retail stores.

  3. Requires food/beverage providers and special events to use of compostable or recyclable disposable food service ware.

  4. Requires food/beverage providers to provide single-use straws, lids, cutlery and to-go condiment packages only upon request.

  5. Encourages use of reusables.

Who would be affected?

In the jurisdictions where the model ordinance is adopted, the ordinance applies to those who sell or distribute disposable food ware and other specified products including food and beverage providers, retailers, and special events.

Examples include restaurants, bars, retail food vendors (including any store, shop, sales outlet, convenience store, grocery store, or deli), schools, faith-based organizations and food trucks operated within a jurisdiction. This ordinance also applies to city facilities (including lessees) and special events requiring a permit from the jurisdiction.

Food/beverage providers:

  • Prohibits polystyrene foam food service ware sold, given away or distributed to customers.

  • Eliminates use of polystyrene foam and other non-compostable and non-recyclable items.

  • Requires straws, lids, cutlery and to-go condiment packages shall only be provided only upon customer request.

  • Encourages use of reusables. Food/beverage providers are encouraged (but not required) to provide a $0.25 credit to customers bringing their own reusable containers, and to charge a $0.25 take-out fee for any combination of disposable cups, lids, straws, and/or utensils. It is assumed that money collected will go towards the purchase of ordinance-compliant disposable alternatives.
Web lids cutlery

By customer request only.


  • Prohibits sale of the following polystyrene foam products:
    • Disposable food service ware that is composed in whole or in part of polystyrene foam.

    • Coolers, ice chests or similar containers (excludes containers encased within a durable material).

    • Pool or beach toys (excludes personal flotation devices).

    • Packaging peanuts or other packaging materials.
Web condiment

By customer request only.

City/County/Town facilities/contractors/lessees and special event promotors:

  • Jurisdiction facilities shall not provide prepared food in disposable food service ware that contains polystyrene foam.

  • Jurisdiction departments may not purchase, acquire or use disposable food service ware that contains polystyrene foam.

  • Jurisdiction contractors and lessees may not use disposable food service ware that contains polystyrene foam.
Web straws

By customer request only.

Are there exemptions?

A City Manager (or designee) may exempt a food provider, retail vendor or special event for the ordinance requirements for a one-year period upon showing the ordinance creates an undue hardship. A food provider, retail vendor or special promoter granted an exemption must reapply prior to the end of the one-year exemptions period and demonstrate continued undue hardship if it wishes to have the exemption extended. Exemptions are granted for intervals not to exceed one year.

Which products are exempt?

  • Foods prepared or packaged outside the jurisdiction. However, all vendors of pre-packaged items are encouraged to follow the ordinance.

  • Disposable food ware compostable or recyclable through Sonoma County’s commercial recycling programs.

  • Products containing polystyrene foam which pose a small risk of becoming litter.

  • Reusable polystyrene foam used for insulating or flotation purposes and is completely encased in more durable material. Examples include surfboards, boats, life preservers, construction materials, craft supplies and durable coolers not principally composed of polystyrene foam.

  • Packaging for meat and fish.

What is compostable and recyclable?

  • Compostable means that a product is capable of disintegrating into natural elements in a compost environment, leaving no toxicity in the soil, within a specified time period.

  • Recyclable means using discarded materials to manufacture a new product. Recycling involves altering the physical form of an object or material and making a new object from the altered material.

What are the alternatives?

Alternatives include food service ware products that are compostable, recyclable or those that can be cleaned and reused.

For assistance in selecting alternative compliant food service ware products view the list below:

What are the alternatives if I am not a food/beverage provider?

Are there financial impacts?

Replacements for polystyrene foam-based and disposal food ware products may be more expensive than their traditional counterparts. Food service vendors may choose to charge a separate fee for the compliant to-go packaging and products. The ordinance also allows food service establishments to charge a small fee to recoup the costs.

Encouraging your customers to bring their own containers both reduces waste and saves money. The ordinance encourages, but does not require, food service vendors to provide a rebate to customers who bring their own clean, reusable to-go containers.

Who is responsible for enforcement?

The City Manager, or designee, has primary responsibility and will be looking for good-faith effort from affected entities.

What is the purpose of the ban?

Restricting the use of polystyrene foam and disposable food service ware reduces landfill waste generated by businesses and consumers reduces litter escaping into the natural environment, waterways, and ocean.

Timeline for adoption early 2020

The proposed model ordinance is being considered for adoption individually by every jurisdiction in Sonoma County. Jurisdictions may approve changes to the model ordinance. Please confirm specific requirements within your jurisdiction.

Sebastopol was the first jurisdiction in Sonoma County to adopted the model ordinance. View the municipal code for more information.

Model Ordinance

An Ordinance to Prohibit Use and Sale of Disposable Food Service Ware and Other Products Containing Polystyrene Foam


ASTM standard means meeting the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International Standards D6400 or D6868 for biodegradable and compostable plastics, as may be amended.

Biodegradable means all materials in the entire product or package will completely break down and return to nature, i.e., become part of usable compost and/or decompose into elements found in nature within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal. “Biodegradable,” as used herein, shall include, but is not limited to, products that meet the then-applicable ASTM standards for compostability.

City/County/Town contractors and lessees means any person or entity that has a contract with the City/County/Town for works or improvements to be performed, for a franchise, concession or lease of property, for grant monies or goods and services or supplies to be purchased at the expense of the City/County/Town.

Compostablemeans that a product is capable of disintegrating into natural elements in a compost environment, leaving no toxicity in the soil.

Disposable food service ware are designed for one-time use and include service ware for take-out foods and/or leftovers from partially consumed meals prepared by food providers.

Examples of disposable food service ware:

  • Bowls
  • Cartons
  • Containers
  • Cups
  • Forks
  • Knives
  • Lids*
  • Napkins
  • Plates
  • Spoons
  • Stirrers
  • Straws
  • Trays
  • Other food ware items designed for one-time use for prepared foods

*Lids as referred to in the ordinance requirements refer only to beverage container lids

Food providers means any vendor, business, organization, entity, group or individual, and including retail food establishments, located or providing food within the City/County/Town that offers food or beverage to the public.

Polystyrene foam means blown polystyrene foam and expanded and extruded foams (sometimes called StyrofoamTM) which are thermoplastic, petrochemical materials utilizing a styrene monomer and processed by any number of techniques including, but not limited to, fusion of polymer spheres (expandable bead polystyrene), injection molding, foam molding, and extrusion-blown molding (extruded foam polystyrene). Polystyrene foam is generally used to make cups, bowls, plates, trays, clamshell containers, meat trays and egg cartons.

Prepared food means food or beverages prepared for consumption on the food provider’s premises or within the City, using any cooking or food preparation technique. Prepared food includes food prepared for consumption off the food provider’s premises, also known as “take-out food.”

Recyclable means material that can be sorted, cleansed, and reconstituted using recycling collection programs available in Sonoma County for the purpose of using the altered form in the manufacture of a new product. Recycling does not include burning, incinerating, converting, or otherwise thermally destroying solid waste.

Retail vendormeans any store or other business that sells goods or merchandise located or operating within the City/County/Town,

Reusable means materials that will be used more than once in its same form by the customer, retail vendor or other reuse program. Reusable food service ware includes: food and beverage containers, packages and trays, such as, but not limited to, soft drink bottles and milk containers that are designed to be returned to the distributor or reused by the customer and that are provided as take-out containers. Reusable also includes durable containers, packages or trays used on-premises, returnable containers brought back to the food vendor and those intended to be taken home by the consumer for reuse, including all containers, bowls, plates, trays, cartons, cups, and other items that are designed for prolonged use, including, but not limited to, durable plastic, ceramic, glass, porcelain, and metal food service ware.

Special event promoters means an applicant for any special event permit issued by the City/County/Town , or any City/County/Townemployee(s) responsible for any organized special event in the City/County/Town .

New! California law AB 619

AB 619 was signed by the governor on July 12, 2019 and sets standards for handling customer-provided reusable food and drink containers for food service vendors, including food trucks.

Please check with Sonoma County Environmental Health, 707-565-6565, for rules specific for your business.

We want to hear from you!

Please let us know how we can help your business comply with the model ordinance.