Disposable Food Service Ware

Summary-snapshot-768x352The City of Burlingame adopted the Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance (Ordinance) on May 4, 2020. Due to the impacts of COVID-19, the City will extend the operational and enforcement start date to March 25, 2022.

This Ordinance is part of a countywide effort led by the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability (OOS) to regulate and reduce the amount of disposable food service ware in our city. This is a significant issue for our community and others because over 1.3 million pounds of trash enter the San Francisco Bay every year, and 80% of plastic pollution consists of single-use food and beverage packaging.

Who will this impact?

  • Food facilities - any vendor, business, organization, entity, group, or individual that provides prepared food for public consumption. Examples: restaurants, mobile food facilities, temporary food facilities, farmers markets, etc.

How will this impact food facilities?

  • Accessories (e.g., straws, stirrers, cup spill plugs, etc.) can only be provided to consumers (1) when requested, (2) upon acceptance by the consumer after being offered by the food facility, or (3) at self-serve stations/dispensers. Accessories will be distributed unbundled as separate individual units. Take-out food delivery services that utilize digital ordering platforms shall provide clear options for customers to affirmatively request accessories.
  • Straws, stirrers, utensils, and cocktail/toothpicks (and the packaging that these individual items are wrapped in, if any) must be made from non-plastic, compostable materials. Acceptable materials include natural fiber-based products such as paper, sugarcane, wheat stalk/stem, bamboo, wood, etc. Traditional plastics (petroleum-based) and compostable plastics (aka bioplastics or polyactic acid [PLA]) shall not be allowed for the items listed above.
  • Plates, bowls, cups, food trays, clamshells, boxes, deli containers, and other containers must be non-plastic and compostable. These items may be lined with, but not made entirely of compostable plastic. Additionally, these items shall be certified by Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) or approved third party. 
  • Exemptions are allowed for disposable food service ware made from aluminum, medical accommodations, healthcare facilities, and drive-through areas. See ordinance for exact details.

Your survey results:
The City launched an online survey which was open from August through September 30, 2019. During this time we received 332 unique responses. Below is a summary of the survey results and some facts about the plastic pollution issue.

Disposable Food Service Ware Survey Results

What are the next steps?

  • The Ordinance was adopted on May 4, 2020 by the City Council. Due to the impacts of COVID-19, the City will extend the operational and enforcement start date to March 25, 2022 to align with the County of San Mateo's Ordinance.  Food facilities may use up their existing non-conforming inventory of disposable food service ware during this time.
  • The County will be taking the lead in developing an education and enforcement program for unincorporated areas and for cities that adopt this Ordinance (such as the City of Burlingame).