Disposable Food Service Ware

Comparison of Accepted and Not Accepted Items

The City of Burlingame is considering participating in an effort led by the County of San Mateo’s Environmental Health Division and the County’s Office of Sustainability (OOS) to reduce the amount of single-use disposable food 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 ever year, and 80% of plastic pollution consists of single-use food and beverage packaging.

One way that the City would like to address this issue is by reducing the amount of single-use disposable items in food service ware through the adoption of a Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance. Note: the County's final ordinance was brought to their Board of Supervisors for the first reading on February 11, 2020. It is expected to be brought to the Board again for consideration for adoption on February 25, 2020. The City's final version of the ordinance may differ from that of the County's.

The objectives of the proposed ordinance are to:

  1. Eliminate the unnecessary distribution and use of disposable food service ware that is not reusable or compostable;
  2. Improve the health and safety of our community by eliminating disposable food service ware that is harmful; and
  3. Help meet our stormwater permit requirements by reducing litter on our streets that ends up in the San Francisco Bay.

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 City's collective feedback was sent to the County as input in their final ordinance.  The County has brought this ordinance to the Board of Supervisors for the first reading and will be up for consideration for adoption in early 2020. If adopted by the County, the City will bring this item to City Council for consideration for adoption.
  • If the ordinance is adopted by the County and the City, it will not become operative and will not be enforced for one year. This is to provide food facilities time to use up their existing non-conforming inventory of disposable food service ware. The County will be taking the lead in developing an education and enforcement program for unincorporated areas and for cities that adopt this ordinance.
  • If you would like to stay up-to-date on this effort please sign up for our Disposable Food Service Ware Mailing List.