Food Service Ware Ordinance

recommended 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 ensure that most types of disposable food service ware can be composted in Mountain View's organics collection program. The changes are currently recommended to take effect in 2023 if adopted by the City Council this fall. 

Summary of recommended changes: 

  • 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 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. 

The City Council voted to introduce the Food Service Ware Ordinance at a public hearing on November 9, 2021. The ordinance will have a second reading on Tuesday, December 14, 2021, at which time the City Council will vote on its adoption. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be held online. The meeting agenda will be posted at MountainView.Legistar.com on December 10, 2021. For detailed information on how to attend, watch and submit public comments to virtual City Council meetings, Click Here.

More information about the recommended changes:

These recommended 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.  

new state laws regulating disposable food service ware

On October 5, 2021, the Governor signed two bills that regulate single-use food service ware in California. Beginning January 1, 2022, Assembly Bill 1276 requires food facilities to only provide food service ware accessories (utensils, straws, stirrers, etc.) and standard condiments packaged for single use upon consumer request. Food providers may not proactively offer these items to consumers except for drive-through orders. Food ordering platforms, including third-party delivery services, must provide consumers an option to affirmatively request each accessory or standard condiment. Accessories must be provided individually and cannot be packaged together. Self-service dispensers that dispense one accessory at a time and self-serve bulk condiment dispensers are acceptable. This provision was in the City's Zero Waste Plan as part of the updated Food Service Ware ordinance, but is not included in the recommended ordinance since it is now state law. However, the City is charged with enforcing these requirements under AB 1276.

Beginning January 1, 2023, AB 1200 will prohibit the sale or distribution of food packaging or food service ware made from paper, paperboard or other natural fiber that contains PFAS. PFAS are toxic additives used to coat paper or fiber-based food service ware to improve water or grease resistance. These "forever chemicals" are a health concern because they do not break down in the environment or in the human body and can accumulate over time. 

POLYSTYRENE FOAM FOOD service WARE ordinance

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. 

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