Food Service Ware Ordinance

proposed food service ware ordinance update

To meet our zero waste goals, the City is considering updates to the Polystyrene Foam Food Service Ware Ordinance to reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste and litter generated in Mountain View. The expanded ordinance would require restaurants and other food providers to only offer customers food service ware accessory items upon request or at self-service stations and ensure that most types of food service ware can be composted in Mountain View's organics collection program. The changes are currently proposed to take effect in 2023 if adopted by the City Council this fall. 

Summary of proposed changes: 

  • Food service ware accessories (straws, stirrers, toothpicks, lids, spill plugs, utensils, condiment packets, etc.) shall be provided only upon customer request or at self-serve stations. 
  • Food Providers may not provide straws, stirrers or toothpicks made of plastic (including "compostable" plastics), with the exception that plastic straws may be provided upon request to those with medical needs. 
  • All non-reusable food service ware (plates, bowls, boxes, cups, clamshells and other containers) used by Food Providers must be compostable in the City's organics program or made entirely of aluminum which is accepted in the City's recycling program. Compostable food service ware must be certified as free of intentionally added fluorinated chemicals (PFAS) by a City-approved third party such as the Biodegradable Products Institute. Plastic food service ware, including compostable plastics, would not be allowed.    

"Food Provider" means any establishment, vendor, business, organization, entity, group or individual located or operating in the City of Mountain View that offers prepared food or beverages, regardless of whether there is a charge for the prepared food. Similar to the existing Polystyrene Foam Food Service Ware Ordinance, the new requirements for food service ware would not apply to prepackaged food. 

More information about the proposed changes:

We want your input!

These proposed changes to the Food Service Ware Ordinance are part of the City's Zero Waste Plan, which was adopted by the City Council in October 2019. An ordinance to address single-use plastics was originally recommended by the second Environmental Sustainability Task Force, a Council Advisory Body of appointed community members, in their Final Report to the City Council in June 2018.

The intent of the updated Food Service Ware Ordinance is to: 

  1. Reduce the amount of landfilled waste from single-use plastics. Plastic food service ware and accessory items are not recyclable or compostable in Mountain View's programs, and must be landfilled. Compostable plastics are not compatible with the composting process at the commercial facility used for the City's organic material. Fiber-based food service ware can be composted and aluminum food service ware can be recycled in Mountain View's programs.     
  2. Protect the health of our community members. Some food service ware contains fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS that pose a risk to human and animal health. These chemicals are commonly added to products to improve their resistance to water and/or grease, but have been linked to serious health effects. 
  3. Reduce plastic pollution in waterways and oceans. Plastic pollution in our waterways and the ocean poses a significant threat to the marine environment's health. Plastic (both traditional and compostable) food service ware is a major contributor to ocean and beach litter throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. 

The existing ban on the use or sale of polystyrene foam food service ware and ice chests by Food Providers and other vendors in the City of Mountain View would remain in effect. For details on the current Polystyrene Foam Food Service Ware Ordinance, see below.  



The purpose of the Polystyrene Foam Food Service Ware Ordinance is to reduce polystyrene plastic in waterways and comply with regional water quality control requirements. The Mountain View City Council adopted the Ordinance on March 25, 2014.

Effective July 1, 2014:

  • Food Providers in Mountain View are prohibited from dispensing food and beverages prepared on the premises for “dine-in” or “take-out” to customers using polystyrene “foam” food service ware.
  • Retailers in Mountain View are prohibited from selling polystyrene foam service ware and coolers such as foam cups, plates or ice chests. Prepackaged foods in foam cups or trays, such as cups of noodles, raw eggs, meat, fish or poultry, are not affected by the ordinance.

Affected businesses include restaurants, bars, pubs, caterers, cafeterias, coffee shops, delis, liquor or convenience stores, grocery and markets, mobile food trucks or cart vendors, festivals or any retail food establishment. 

Polystyrene foam food service ware means containers such as a cup, bowl, plate, tray, carton, or clamshell container (lid is hinged to the bottom). They are sometimes referred to as expanded polystyrene (EPS) or Styrofoam, and may have a #6 resin code on the bottom and are usually white in color.

Violations of this ordinance may result in a written warning for a first offense. Repeated non-compliance with the ordinance terms are subject to warning, citation and/or fine per the City of Mountain View Municipal Code.

See below outreach resources for businesses and other establishments which may be affected by the Polystyrene Food Service Ware Ordinance.