Food Service Waste Reduction Ordinance

The Food Service Waste Reduction Ordinance requires food vendors and restaurants in San Francisco to use compostable or recyclable to-go containers.

Using compostable and recyclable food service ware is one way businesses and consumers can help San Francisco achieve zero waste by 2020.

What are the requirements of the food service ware law?

All disposable food service ware for food that is prepared and served in San Francisco must be compostable or recyclable.

San Francisco food vendors are prohibited from using polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) food service ware for prepared food and service in San Francisco.

Who has to follow the new food service ware law?

All San Francisco food vendors, restaurants, delis, fast food establishments, vendors at fairs, food trucks, and all City facilities and contractors that sell prepared food in San Francisco must follow this law.

Which food service ware products are approved?

Compostable products include:

  • Paper or other plant fiber, such as from sugarcane, rice, or bamboo
  • Polyethylene film coating on paper is currently accepted, but no foam coating.
  • Corn, soy, potato, or other plant starch based bio-plastics, such as “PLA” clear plastic that are labeled “compostable” and meet compostability standards (ASTM D6400). 

Recyclable products include:

  • Aluminum foil or trays
  • Plastic containers and lids

Not accepted: Bags and food service ware labeled “green”, “environmentally friendly,” “biodegradable,” “degradable,” “will decompose,” “photodegradable,” “made from corn starch,” or other unsubstantiated claims are not accepted.

What is wrong with polystyrene foam (Styrofoam)?

Made from oil, polystyrene foam is non-renewable, non-biodegradable, and non-recyclable. Polystyrene foam food service ware ends up in landfills, waterways, or the ocean. It can break into pieces, which are often mistaken for food and ingested by marine animals, birds, and fish. Medical studies suggest that chemicals in polystyrene foam can cause cancer and leach into food or drinks.

Tips to Reduce Food Service Ware Waste

  • Choose reusable service ware instead of disposable ones for eat-in customers
  • Incentivize customers to bring their own mugs or reusable to-go containers
  • Charge customers a fee to cover any additional costs for disposable take-out containers

Resources for Businesses

Overview of Ordinances
Overview of San Francisco Food Service Ware Ordinance and San Francisco Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance (PDF)
Food Service Waste Reduction Ordinance (PDF)

Additional Information
San Francisco's Zero Waste Goals

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