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Single-Use Foodware

Background

On October 2, 2019, the Town Council adopted Ordinance 838 to require food vendors in the Town to provide compostable and/or reusable foodware for both dine-in and takeout. The Ordinance imposed similar requirements on Town purchases and Town-sponsored events. Around the same time, the County began its foodware ordinance development process, but that was soon halted due to the impacts of the pandemic. Their development work resumed in May 2021 and continued over the course of a year, which included extensive community outreach.

On May 10, 2022, the County adopted its Reusable Foodware Ordinance, which was modeled off of existing jurisdiction ordinances including Fairfax’s foodware ordinance. The County created a model ordinance for jurisdictional adoption, with the goal that all jurisdictions in Marin would adopt this same ordinance. Adoption of this model ordinance would level the playing field for food vendors across the County by adopting the same requirements, ensuring consistent enforcement, and minimizing confusion for consumers and food service providers.

The Town Council adopted Ordinance 878 on April 5, 2023 that includes the County's model ordinance language and requirements, which are largely the same as Fairfax's original foodware ordinance. The County's Environmental Health Division (EHS) will begin enforcing the ordinance on behalf of the Town starting November 10, 2023. EHS will also be educating all food vendors regularly of the requirements of the ordinance and taking enforcement action only as necessary.

The Ordinance covers all entities selling prepared food to the public in the Town including restaurants, grocery stores and delis, bakeries, carry-out, quick services, farmers markets, food trucks, and any other business that requires a health permit with the exception of public or private school cafeterias.

Why a Foodware Ordinance?

  • Plastic waste and litter left on streets and sidewalks collects in gutters, storm drains, and creeks and, ultimately, gets discharged into San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
  • Reduction of plastics at the source by encouraging reuse and recyclable or compostable materials will reduce litter and debris from going into the landfills.
  • A clear consistent foodware ordinance provides guidance and clarity to businesses and the community who want to do the right thing but are unclear on what that is.
  • Assists the Town and local businesses in complying with recently adopted state legislation focused on waste reduction including AB 1200, AB 1201, AB 1276, AB 827, and SB 1383.
  • Supports the Town's zero waste and environmental goals by reducing single-use plastics. Fairfax's Climate Action Plan includes requiring the use of reusable and recyclable containers, packaging, and foodware in lieu of single-use plastics by 2025.
  • Numerous case studies conducted by ReThink Disposable and other organizations have shown switching from disposables to reusables can save businesses money.

Key Features of the Ordinance

The Ordinance contains six key features and uses the hierarchy of: reusables are best, natural-fiber compostable foodware is compliant, and single-use plastics, including bioplastics, are prohibited. The Ordinance only allows fiber-based compostable foodware as compliant alternatives because the compost facility at the Redwood Landfill will not accept bioplastics given its status as an organic compost production facility.

  • To-go foodware must be fiber-based or BPI-certified compostable (no bio or "compostable" plastics). Aluminum is allowed.
  • Dine-in foodware must be reusable. Natural-fiber compostable accessories can be provided upon request. 
  • To-go foodware accessories can be provided only upon request or at a self-serve takeout station. They must be fiber-based compostable, when available. Plastic straws can be provided upon request, to accommodate any person's access needs.
  • Disposable cups must have an itemized charge of 25 cents (with exceptions for CalFresh/SNAP and WIC customers), retained by the food vendor.
  • 3-stream (landfill, recycling, and compost) waste containers with signage are required if solid waste containers are provided for customer use. 
  • Temporary exemptions will be provided via a Countywide list if compliant products are not available for certain foodware or foodware accessories. 

Resources

County of Marin: The County works to support healthy, safe, and sustainable communities while preserving Marin’s unique environmental heritage. Click here for information on food facilities and click here for the County’s reusable and compostable foodware purchasing guide. To request free technical assistance in transitioning to reusables and/or compliant materials, please email foodware@marincounty.org.

Plastic Free Marin: An active community group dedicated to eliminating single-use foodware and promoting the transition to reusables through policy, behavior change, supporting businesses, and uncovering emerging solutions and business models.

Usefull: A food and beverage company that enables organizations and communities to meet their zero waste goals by providing them with proprietary technology and custom designed stainless steel to-go cups and bowls for users to check out like a library book. 

Zero Waste Marin: A public agency dedicated to help residents and businesses meet the Marin County’s Zero Waste goal by 2025 by reducing and recycling their solid waste and safely disposing of hazardous materials. It provides information on household hazardous waste collection, recycling, composting, and waste disposal, and also ensures the County’s compliance with State recycling mandates – all while educating the citizens and businesses of Marin.

FAQ:

Got questions you would like to know the answers to right away? Please refer to the County of Marin’s full FAQ list.

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