Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance

The County of San Mateo (County) Board of Supervisors adopted the Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance (Ordinance) on February 25, 2020, and it went into effect in March 2020. This Ordinance aims to regulate and reduce the amount of disposable food service ware, especially those made of plastic, that is used by food facilities in unincorporated areas of San Mateo County. The purpose of the new regulations is to reduce single-use food ware made from plastic, which are pervasive pollutants with long-term, harmful impacts on our streets, storm drains, waterways, and our health. The County is looking to work together with our local restaurants and other food facilities to make this important initiative a success!

The Ordinance requires:

  • Most disposable food service ware to be non-plastic and natural-fiber based compostable (a.k.a. made from paper, sugarcane, wood, bamboo, wheat stalk, hay, etc.);
  • Larger disposable food service ware to have little/no harmful fluorinated chemicals; and
  • Regulated distribution of disposable food service ware accessories (e.g., smaller side items like straws, utensils, stirrers, napkins, condiment packets, etc.).

Additional information about the requirements of the Ordinance is available in the Summary Sheet. Allowed-Not Allowed Food Ware

Countywide Effort

The County’s Office of Sustainability is currently working with interested cities to roll out a uniform effort across the entire San Mateo County. Cities within the county have the option of adopting the County’s Ordinance, in which case, food facilities within the city will need to comply. The County will provide education and enforcement services for the Ordinance within the cities that adopt the County’s Ordinance.

The following table displays the Jurisdictions in San Mateo County that have adopted the County’s model Ordinance as of February 2021 and the corresponding Ordinance enforcement start dates:

Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance Adoption and Enforcement Dates by Jurisdiction

JurisdictionDate Ordinance AdoptedOrdinance Enforcement Start Date
City of Half Moon Bay*October 6, 2020July 9, 2021
County of San Mateo (unincorporated areas only)February 25, 2020March 25, 2022
City of South San FranciscoMarch 25, 2020
City of BurlingameMay 4, 2020
Town of AthertonJune 17, 2020
City of BelmontNovember 25, 2020
City of MillbraeFebruary 23, 2021
City of San MateoFebruary 1, 2021October 1, 2022
*Additional requirements apply to food facilities in Half Moon Bay: 1) Wherever practicable, food facilities shall provide reusable foodware in place of disposable foodware; 2) Accessories such as straws, stirrers, cup spill plugs, condiment packets, utensils, napkins, etc. shall be provided only when requested by the consumer.

Additional cities in the county are currently working on exploring the Ordinance for their jurisdictions. This table will continue to be updated, so please check back in the future!

What Happens Now?

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, the Ordinance was updated on February 23, 2021 with a new timeline to extend the operational and enforcement start date of the Ordinance by one year to March 25, 2022. The original start date was March 25, 2021. Impacted food facilities in unincorporated areas of San Mateo County are encouraged to use up their existing stock of food ware items that will not meet the requirements of the new regulations prior to March 25, 2022. If food facilities would like a head start on their transition, they can request assistance by contacting the County’s Office of Sustainability using the contact information provided below.

The County’s Office of Sustainability will continue to communicate with our food facilities in the near future to provide additional information, including a guide that has a list of vendors and compliant food ware items that you can purchase. Additionally, financial assistance is available to help interested food facilities go beyond the new regulations by voluntarily switching from single-use to reusable food ware.

Resources for Food Facilities