On December 5th, 2018, about 75 local government staff from all over the Bay Area came together at the Foster City Community Center and participated in a day-long workshop called the Next Gen Foodware Ordinances: A Policy Lab for Local Government, which focused on policy options for reducing single-use foodware items. One of the goals of the workshop was to bring Bay Area local governments together in one space to allow for dialogue – the sharing of ideas, best practices, and experiences – all around a topic that is gaining increasing momentum and starting to become a high priority item for many local governments. A second goal of the workshop was educating the right folks – local governments staff, who specialize in waste reduction, stormwater, health and sustainability – with helpful information that they can take back to their communities to tailor and use to inform their decision making process around this topic.
Key topic areas discussed at the workshop include:
- Standards and requirements for single-use foodware
- The benefits and challenges of reusable foodware for onsite dining and to-go foodware, including proper food handling practices and potential impact on big fast food chains
- Customer charges for single-use foodware
- Reusable foodware systems that exist in the Bay Area and other parts of the world to support culture change
At the end of the day, local government staff collaborated in groups broken up by county and shared information regarding current efforts, input provided by stakeholders, specific challenges unique to their communities, and potential solutions that may work in their respective communities.
County of San Mateo’s Office of Sustainability and UPSTREAM
San Francisco Department of the Environment, StopWaste, Clean Water Action, and Ecology Center
Workshop Planning Committee
- Miriam Gordon, UPSTREAM
- Eun-Soo Lim, County of San Mateo
- Jack Macy, City/County of San Francisco
- Peter Schultze-Allen, EOA Inc.
- Samantha Sommer, Clean Water Action
- Justin Lehrer, StopWaste
- Martin Bourque, Ecology Center
- Workshop Program
- ReThink Disposable’s resources including surveys and case studies of food establishments that switched out disposables for reusables: http://www.rethinkdisposable.org/resources
- UPSTREAM’s resources:
Workshop Presentations and Videos
To access the full collection of all the workshop presentation videos, please click here.
- Workshop Introductions, Goals, and Setting the Stage: The Local Government Perspective (Video)
Miriam Gordon, Policy Director at UPSTREAM, provides an introduction to the Next Gen Foodware Ordinance Workshop, including the acknowledgment of the primary sponsors and co-sponsors and the workshop planning committee, and how the workshop got started.
Eun-Soo Lim, Sustainability Coordinator at the County of San Mateo’s Office of Sustainability, discusses the main goals of the workshop. Eun-Soo also presents on why addressing single-use foodware is important from a local government perspective, garnering input from the participants.
- The Environmental Perspective: Why We Need to Move UPSTREAM in the Lifestyle of Food Packaging (Presentation/Video)
Miriam Gordon, Policy Director at UPSTREAM, offers insight into the global movement of shifting away from single-use products, how these products pollute our oceans, and what we can do about it. She argues that no single-use product, be it recyclable or compostable, is a silver bullet. Instead, we need a mass cultural shift in thinking about food packaging.
- A Framework for Next Gen Policy Solutions (Presentation/Video)
Peter Schultz-Allen, Senior Scientist at EOA Inc., presents a “Foodware 2.0 Framework.” He goes over the major types of food businesses currently in operation and the key questions policy-makers should consider when dealing with food businesses.
- City of Oakland: Reducing Disposables through “On-Request” Provisions (Video)
Wanda Redic, Senior Recycling Specialist for the City of Oakland, discusses the City of Oakland’s new ordinance, which only allows straws to be distributed upon request. Wanda talks about the importance of enacting small, feasible policies in order to open up dialogue and work towards greater change.
- City/County of San Francisco: Banning Fluorinated Chemicals and Plastic Straws in Foodware (Presentation/Video)
Jack Macy, Senior Commercial Zero Waste Coordinator for the City/County of San Francisco, gives a presentation on the San Francisco Single Use Foodware Plastics, Toxics, and Litter Reduction Ordinance. The bill includes a ban on beverage accessories (unless requested), a requisite for compostable food packaging to have BPI certification, and a mandatory 10% minimum of reusable cups for city venues or permitted events held on City property. He also examines the feasibility of recycling various types of plastics and gives an overview about chemical toxins (fluorinated chemicals) in foodware.
- City of Alameda: Going Recyclable or Compostable? (Presentation/Video)
Kerry Parker, Zero Waste Program Specialist for the City of Alameda, gives a presentation on the City of Alameda’s current sustainability programs, including a foodware ordinance that was adopted recently. Alameda was an early adopter of polices related to food packaging. The City banned styrofoam foodware in 2008, made measurable steps to reduce disposable food service ware in 2017, and has partnered with ReThink Disposable to encourage reusable foodware practices.
- ReThink Disposable (Presentation/Video)
Samantha Sommer, Waste Program Prevention Manager at Clean Water Action / Clean Water Fund, gives an overview of ReThink Disposable – a program of Clean Water Action. The ReTthink Disposable team has worked with food and dining establishments around the Bay Area to promote reusable foodware. Samantha recounts a variety of success stories, noting that all clients have ended up saving money by taking part in the program. ReThink Disposable has extensive data showing that by switching to reusables, these restaurants have greatly reduced their environmental impact.
- Retrofits, and Water and Energy Consumption – Can Big Fast Food Chains Adapt? (Presentation/Video)
Richard Young, Director of Education at the Food Service Technology Center, gives a detailed presentation on the potential financial costs of adapting to reusable/sustainable practices, specifically for big chain restaurants. Through field research and direct customer support, Richard has overseen a wide variety of appliance overhauls for major food restaurant businesses. He lists cost estimates for different retrofits and as well as the incentives for incorporating such changes.
- External Dishwashing Services (Video)
Farhad Salehian talks about his startup, Dishjoy, a mobile dishwashing service for businesses and restaurants. Dishjoy offers a financially feasible way to implement a large-scale reusable dining experience at a variety of establishments. Farhad goes over the history of the project, its current operations, and its overall environmental impact.
- Addressing Infrastructure Challenges and Permits for Future Facilities – The Berkeley Approach (Video)
Martin Bourque, Executive Director at the Ecology Center in Berkeley, gives an overview of the City of Berkeley’s pending sustainable foodware and toxics ordinance. The ordinance is focused on a comprehensive approach to single-use foodware reduction, setting the stage for a broad overhaul of current disposable foodware practices.
- California Health Code Provisions for BYO Foodware (Video)
Justin Malan, Principal and Owner of Ecoconsult California, discusses the role of the Retail Food and Safety Group in conversations about environmental sustainability. He stresses that safe food and dining practices can go hand-in-hand with sustainability, despite areas where the two modes can come into conflict.
- Consumers and Businesses’ Reactions via Survey (Presentation/Video)
Chris Slafter presents “Business / Consumer Reactions to Customer Charges.” As the lead survey administrator for ReThink Disposable, Chris has personally overseen the Bay Area restaurant community’s response to possible single-use foodware packaging fees. Chris goes step-by-step to show how ReThink Disposable has conducted its surveys and how the results may affect policymakers’ decisions.
- Engaging and Avoiding Adverse Impacts on Homeless and Economically Disadvantaged Communities (Video)
Chris Richardson, Chief Program Officer for Downtown Streets Team, looks at how reusable foodware policies (and sustainability policies, in general) affect the Bay Area’s unhoused individuals. How can policies overlook this population? What steps can we take to ensure that they are not negatively impacted by restrictions on single-use foodware?
- Experience with Go-Box in Palo Alto (Presentation/Video)
Chuck Muir, Manager of Environmental Control Programs at City of Palo Alto, talks about the Go-Box Program at the City of Palo Alto. Although Palo Alto has a zero waste goal and a robust recycling/composting program, it was looking to make a greater change. Chuck weighs the pros and cons of the Go-Box Program from a cost, environmental, and feasibility perspective.
- Mandatory Reuse and Available Systems to Support it (Presentation/Video)
Miriam Gordon, Policy Director at UPSTREAM, presents “Mandatory Reuse and Systems to Support It.” Her presentation focuses on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws, various deposit systems from around the world, subscription services like Go-Box, as well as automated collection services. She raises the possibility of starting a workgroup related to reuse systems.
- Launching a Reusable Foodware Pilot in Berkeley (Video)
Martin Bourque, Executive Director at the Ecology Center in Berkeley, gives an overview of the Ecology Center’s new pilot program to reduce single-use food packaging in South Berkeley downtown areas. He notes the financial toll of waste and litter in Berkeley’s downtown areas and looks at the pros and cons of several deposit systems intended to alleviate the issue