San Francisco Department of the Environment

New Ordinance Tackles Plastic Waste and Litter, Makes Dining in San Francisco More Eco-friendly

As of July 1, 2019, San Franciscans will see fewer plastic single-use items at their local cafes and restaurants. The new Plastic, Toxics, and Litter Reduction ordinance will reduce plastic pollution by restricting the distribution of plastic straws and other foodware accessories commonly littered on our streets and beaches. Beverage cup lids, sleeves, condiment packets, plastic cutlery, and other single-use items are now available only upon customer request or at self-service areas. In addition, compostable products will be required to be BPI-certified so as to eliminate intentionally-added fluorinated chemicals.

The Plastic Problem

San Franciscans use an estimated one million plastic straws each day and 300 million disposable cups each year. What's more, two-thirds of the litter that ends up in our Bay is from stuff that we only use once, like straws, cups and other food packaging.

Reducing Single-Use and Plastic Waste

As of July 1, single-use food and beverage accessories must not be included automatically in a customer’s order for dine-in, take-out or delivery. Instead, they may be made available only upon request or in a self-service area. Restricted items include beverage plugs, chopsticks, condiment packages and portion cups, lids, napkins, sleeves, stirrers, utensils.

Food and Beverage Accessories

Because small plastic foodware accessories like beverage plugs and cocktail sticks are hard to recycle and often end up in landfill, these items—which include plastic beverage plugs, plastic cocktail sticks, plastic stirrers, and plastic toothpicks—are also prohibited from being sold or distributed.

Plastic Accessories Ban

Plastic Straw Restrictions

As of July 1, straws may only be provided to a customer upon request. Acceptable straws include single-use paper or other natural fiber straws or reusable straws, such as glass, silicon, or metal. A single-use plastic straw may only be provided to a customer who specifically requests a plastic straw to accommodate a disability or medical need.

Access to Straws for People with Disabilities

Many people with disabilities, as well as people with temporary medical needs, require straws to access food and drink. Some people may need to use a straw because they cannot physically lift or position a beverage. Many people with disabilities find that only plastic straws consistently meet their needs.

Per Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California state law, businesses in San Francisco are expected to provide reasonable access to goods and services. Disability advocates say that it is best practice for places of public accommodation to have some plastic straws available in order to ensure reasonable access to goods and services. Businesses should wait for a customer to request a plastic straw before providing one and should not assume that all people with disabilities require a plastic straw.

For additional guidance, businesses and members of the public may consult San Francisco’s implementation guide, A Guide to Implementing Disability Access Under the Plastic & Litter Reduction Ordinance (PDF) (link coming soon).

Community Partnership

In the fall of 2018, the Department of the Environment coordinated multiple stakeholder meetings and worked closely with the Mayor’s Office on Disability and members of the disability community to craft access language for inclusion in San Francisco’s local ordinance and to develop compliance guidance for businesses. We wish to acknowledge and thank the advocates and community members as well as the Mayor’s Office on Disability and the Office of Small Business for their partnership. For questions regarding implementation or disability access and the Plastic, Litter, and Toxics Reduction Ordinance, please contact: [email protected].

Take Action

Take the pledge to cut down on single-use disposables by refusing the things you don’t need and reusing the things you do.


Related Content

Plastic, Toxics, and Litter Reduction Ordinance
San Francisco bans some commonly used plastic item (ABC 7 News)


Paper Straws

Last updated: July 3, 2019