Disposable food service ware and polystyrene foam ban model ordinance

Jurisdictions in Sonoma County have adopted or are considering an 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.

English quick summary

The ordinance addresses six 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 unlined, fiber only compostable products or recyclable food service ware.

  4. Requires food/beverage providers to provide single-use straws, beverage lids, cutlery and to-go condiment packages only upon request. Customer may ask for the particular items, food providers may offer specific items, or the establishment may utilize a self-service area.

  5. Requires food/beverage providers to provide service ware products without added fluorinated chemicals (PFAS).

  6. Encourages use of reusables through optional fee for single-use or credit to customers providing their own containers.

Who is 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. For example:

  • restaurants, bars, and food trucks
  • retail food vendors (including any store, shop, sales outlet, convenience store, grocery store, or deli)
  • private schools and faith-based organizations (public schools are managed by the state and not subject to the ordinance)
  • city facilities (including lessees) and special events requiring a permit from the jurisdiction

What are PFAS and why are they being prohibited from food service ware?

Fluorinated chemicals are synthetic chemicals commonly used in disposable food service ware, including compostable paperboard containers, to repel water and grease. These chemicals pose a public health risk as they have been linked to serious health effects including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disruption, delayed puberty, and obesity. To verify that natural fiber-based food service ware is free of PFAS, they will need to be certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) or another party approved by Zero Waste Sonoma. To read a recent study examining the persistence, accumulation potential, and hazards of this chemical class, click here.

Find downloadable materials and other helpful resources related to the ordinance on our DOWNLOADS & GRAPHICS page.

The Ordinance in Action

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.

  • Eliminates use of fluorinated chemicals (PFAS) in food service ware products.

  • 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.

Retailers:

  • 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, contractors, and lessees shall not provide prepared food in disposable food service ware that contains polystyrene foam or PFAS.

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

  • Jurisdiction facilities, contractors, and lessees are required to use compostable or recyclable food service ware items.
Web straws

By customer request only.

Financial Assistance is Available for Reusable Foodware

Exemptions

More information on exemptions can be found here.

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 of $0.25 for compliant to-go packaging and products to help 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 $0.25 rebate to customers who bring their own clean, reusable to-go containers, cups, or travel mugs.

A limited time grant of $250 per food establishment is available as reimbursement for costs of reusable foodware. More info available here.

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.

Ordinance may vary per jurisdiction

The model ordinance has been considered individually by every jurisdiction in Sonoma County with the exception of Rohnert Park. Jurisdictions may approve changes to the model ordinance. Please confirm specific requirements within your jurisdiction by clicking the links on the table to the right to review the respective municipal codes.



Jurisdiction

(municipal code linked)

Ordinance ModificationsEffective
CloverdaleModel Ordinance excluding PFAS amendment

Yes

Cotati

Model Ordinance Adopted

January 1, 2022
HealdsburgModel Ordinance Adopted

Yes

Petaluma

Currently only prohibiting the sale/use of polystyrene foam

Yes
Rohnert ParkPresentation TBD

Santa Rosa

Model Ordinance plus additional requirements:

  • Reusable food ware + accessories for onsite dining
  • Condiments served in bulk dispensers rather than packets for onsite dining
  • 3-bins for customer use with graphic rich signage indicating proper disposal/recycling/compost
  • Recycled content paper bags for takeout
January 1, 2022
SebastopolModel Ordinance Adopted; PFAS amendment first reading expected January 18, 2022Yes
Sonoma

Model Ordinance Adopted

Yes

WindsorModel Ordinance AdoptedYes
County of SonomaModel Ordinance Adopted

January 1, 2022

* While the ordinance is technically in effect in several jurisdictions, it will be the focus of ZWS to provide education and technical assistance as requested by the jurisdiction

Download Overview

The following ordinance overview flyer is provided in English and Spanish language. Click on the image to download the .pdf

Additional educational resources are available on our Downloads & Graphics page.

definitions

Compostable means products made entirely from natural plant fibers such as paper, bamboo, wood, sugarcane, and wheat. These products must be accepted at the industrial or municipal facilities that aerobically compost Sonoma County’s food scraps and yard debris. For the purposes of this ordinance, products that contain or are coated with plastic polymers such as polylactic acid (PLA) or polyethylene (PE) are not compostable.

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.

PFAS means a class of fluorinated organic compounds containing at least one fully fluorinated carbon atom, also known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

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
  • Chopsticks
  • 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 vendor means 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 .

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.

SEE TEXT FOR AB 619

Please let us know if an establishment you have visited is using or selling polystyrene foam products or non-recyclable/non-compostable food ware

In Cloverdale, Windsor, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Sonoma, Cotati, and unincorporated Sonoma County, food and beverage establishments are required to use fiber only compostable or recyclable plastic or aluminum service ware, and only distribute straws, beverage lids, utensils, and condiment packets on request. Retailers are prohibited from selling products comprised of polystyrene foam, such as coolers, cups, plates, bowls, other food containers, and packaging materials. Please use this form to report an establishment violating these ordinance terms.

Select the jurisdiction of the business or event.
Hold CTRL (Windows) or Command (Mac) key to select/deselect multiple product types