Disposable Food Service Ware

Summary-snapshot-768x352The City of Burlingame adopted the Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance (Ordinance) on May 4, 2020, which goes into effect June 3, 2020. The mandatory requirements will become operative and subject to enforcement on June 3, 2021 (one year after the effective date).

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 City's collective feedback was sent to the County as input in their final ordinance.  On February 25, the County Board of Supervisors adopted the ordinance. City of Burlingame staff have introduced this ordinance to the City Council on April 20, 2020 where it was widely supported. The Ordinance was brought back again on May 4, 2020 and was adopted by the City Council.
  • The Ordinance was adopted on May 4, 2020 and becomes effective 30 days after adoption, i.e. June 3, 2020. According to the Ordinance, the mandatory provisions will become operative and subject to enforcement one year after the effective date, i.e. June 3, 2021. 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.