Foodware Aware

Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance

In 2011, the City of Foster City adopted San Mateo County Ordinance Code Chapter 4.107 by reference. At that time, Chapter 4.107 was a Polystyrene Ban Ordinance. In 2020, the County repealed the Polystyrene Ban Ordinance and replaced it with a Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance (Ordinance). The Ordinance was then updated in February 2022 to align with AB 1200 and AB 1276, which were approved by the Governor in October 2021. This Ordinance aims to regulate and reduce the amount of plastic disposable foodware that is used and distributed in Foster City and to encourage the use of reusable alternatives.

The compliance start date for the updated Ordinance is October 1, 2022, providing time for food facilities to comply with these requirements. This Ordinance will be enforced by the County of San Mateo's Office of Sustainability, in partnership with the City.

The objectives of the Ordinance are to:

  • Reduce waste by eliminating disposable foodware that is not reusable or compostable;
  • Improve the health and safety of community members; and
  • Help keep our waterways clean and safe.

Who will this impact?

This Ordinance will apply to restaurants, mobile food trucks, temporary food facilities (e.g., street fairs, festivals, etc.), farmer's markets, catering options, private schools, and other operations that operate within the City and provide prepared food (a.k.a. ready-to-eat food and beverages) to the general public.

Key elements of the Ordinance include requiring:

  1. Most disposable foodware to be non-plastic, fiber-based (e.g. paper, bamboo, sugarcane, etc.), and compostable;
  2. Larger disposable foodware items such as bowls, plates, and clamshells need to be free of harmful perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Please note: Starting on January 1, 2023, the State will expand this requirement to ALL disposable foodware made of fiber, including accessories (e.g., straws, utensils, napkins, stirrers, etc.), paper bags, and food contact paper; and
  3. The distribution of disposable foodware accessories (e.g., straws, utensils, napkins, stirrers, spill plugs, etc.) is only allowed when requested by the consumer and/or with dispensers that distribute one item at a time. Open containers/bins holding disposable accessories for consumers to grab-and-go are no longer allowed. Disposable accessories cannot be bundled together, and they must be distributed individually as separate items (e.g., each fork, spook, straw, condiment, etc.).

Resources Available to Impacted Food Facilities

FAQs, a purchasing guide for acceptable disposable items, outreach materials (e.g., tent cards, employee guide, etc.), and other resources for food facilities are available at the County of San Mateo’s Foodware Aware Program website.

Free technical assistance is available for food facilities to help meet the requirements of the Ordinance as well as go beyond the requirements and switch to reusable foodware. Up to $300 is available for food facilities who are interested in switching from disposable to reusable foodware!

Please contact the Foodware Aware Team for additional information:

Quick Links:

Information for the Public

  1. Understand what the new Ordinance requires with this Ordinance Summary (English / Spanish / Chinese / Tagalog).
  2. Request disposable accessories like straws, stirrers, napkins, and condiment packets only when absolutely needed.
  3. Take only what you really need at self-serve stations and dispensers.
  4. Bring and use your own reusables (utensils, straws, to-go mugs, leftover containers, etc.) instead of single-use disposables.
  5. Properly sort and dispose of foodware (check your local recycling and composting hauler/facility's guidelines).
  6. Make sure your favorite restaurant and other food facilities are in compliance with the Ordinance (let us know if they aren't). See dates and areas in San Mateo County where the Ordinance will be enforced.
  7. Send a letter to food facility owners/managers encouraging them to be plastic-free. View a template letter here.