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 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.

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.

As of end of February 2021, the following jurisdictions in the San Mateo County have adopted the County’s Ordinance as a model ordinance:

  1. City of South San Francisco – adopted on 3/25/20
  2. City of Burlingame – adopted on 5/4/20
  3. Town of Atherton – adopted on 6/17/20
  4. City of Half Moon Bay – adopted on 10/7/20
  5. City of Belmont – adopted on 11/25/20
  6. City of San Mateo – adopted on 2/1/21
  7. City of Millbrae – adopted on 2/23/21

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

What Happens Now?

The Ordinance will become operational and start being enforced on March 25, 2021, or in one year from effective date, for food facilities that operate in unincorporated areas of San Mateo County. This one-year delay is to provide our food facilities time to use up existing stock of items that will not be in compliance. Operational and enforcement dates vary across the cities that have adopted the Ordinance, so please contact the cities directly for additional information on specific dates.

The County’s Office of Sustainability will continue to communicate with our food facilities in the near future to provide additional information, including education and outreach materials to help meet the new requirements.

UPDATE (2/23/21): 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 required to start complying with the Ordinance on March 25, 2022.

Resources for Food Facilities

Questions?

Please email foodware@smcgov.org or call 888-442-2666.