Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance
On June 17, 2020, the Town of Atherton adopted the Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance (Ordinance) that mirrors the County of San Mateo’s (County) foodware ordinance. This Ordinance aims to regulate and reduce the amount of disposable plastic foodware and other foodware waste that are used and distributed in Atherton. The Ordinance’s implementation and enforcement start date is October 1, 2022 (previously March 25, 2022). Education and enforcement of the Ordinance are being headed by the County of San Mateo’s Office of Sustainability, in partnership with the Town.
The objectives of the Ordinance are to:
- Reduce waste by eliminating disposable foodware that is not reusable or compostable;
- Improve the health and safety of community members; and
- Help keep our waterways clean and safe.
Who will this impact?
This Ordinance will apply to restaurants, mobile food trucks, temporary food facilities (e.g., street fairs, festivals, etc.), farmers’ markets, catering operations, private schools, and other operations that operate within the Town and provide prepared food (a.k.a. ready-to-eat food and beverages) to the general public.
Key elements of the Ordinance include requiring:
- Most disposable foodware to be non-plastic, fiber-based (e.g., paper, bamboo, sugarcane, etc.), and compostable;
- Larger disposable foodware items such as bowls, plates, and clamshells need to be free of harmful perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Please note: Starting on January 1, 2023, the State will expand this requirement to ALL disposable foodware made of fiber, including accessories (e.g., straws, utensils, napkins, stirrers, etc.), paper bags, and food contact paper; and
- The distribution of disposable foodware accessories (e.g., straws, utensils, napkins, stirrers, spill plugs, etc.) is only allowed when requested by the consumer and/or with dispensers that distribute one item at a time. Open containers/bins holding disposable accessories for consumers to grab-and-go are no longer allowed. Disposable accessories cannot be bundled together, and they must be distributed individually as separate items (e.g., each fork, spoon, straw, condiment, etc.).
Resources Available to Impacted Food Facilities
- The Town of Atherton's Ordinance can be found here: https://atherton.municipal.codes/Code/8.5
- County of San Mateo’s Model Foodware Ordinance Summary (English / Spanish / Chinese / Tagalog)
- Ordinance Requirements Table (English / Spanish / Chinese / Tagalog)
- Implementation Checklist (English / Spanish / Chinese / Tagalog)
- Purchasing Guide listing acceptable disposable and reusable foodware
FAQs, outreach materials (e.g., tent cards, employee training guide, etc.), and other resources for food facilities are available at the County of San Mateo’s Foodware Aware Program website.
Free technical assistance is available for food facilities to help meet the requirements of the Ordinance as well as go beyond the requirements and switch to reusable foodware. Up to $300 is available for food facilities who are interested in switching from disposable to reusable foodware!
Information for the Public
- Understand what the new Ordinance requires with this Ordinance Summary (Spanish translation) or 2-page Flier (Spanish / Chinese / Tagalog translation).
- Request disposable accessories like straws, stirrers, napkins, and condiment packets only when absolutely needed.
- Take only what you really need at self-serve stations and dispensers.
- Bring and use your own reusables (utensils, straws, to-go mugs, leftover containers, etc.) instead of single-use disposables.
- Properly sort and dispose of foodware (check your local recycling and composting hauler/facility’s guidelines).
- Make sure your favorite restaurants and other food facilities are in compliance with the Ordinance (let us know if they aren’t). See dates and areas in San Mateo County where the Ordinance will be enforced.
- Send a letter to food facility owners/managers encouraging them to be plastic-free. View a template letter here.