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Disposable Food Service Ware Frequently Asked Questions

Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance 

On August 28, 2018, the Santa Monica City Council voted to prohibit the distribution of non-marine-degradable disposable food service ware and regulate the distribution of disposable straws and utensils with an "Upon Request" policy.
Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance 

Why has the City of Santa Monica banned single-use plastic food service ware?

The intent of the Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance is to significantly reduce the environmental impacts related to single-use plastics and promote a major shift towards the use of reusable food service ware. This ordinance supports the City's goal to divert 95% of the waste citywide from the landfill by 2030, as well as the City’s on-going effort to protect the health and safety of our beaches.  

How is single-use plastic food ware harmful to the environment?

  • They are produced from non-renewable resources.
  • They are designed to be disposable (rather than reusable).
  • The economic value of single use plastic food service has decreased and products are being diverted to landfill. 
  • Disposable Food Service Wares are often collected during beach clean-ups. Single-use plastics remain in the marine environment for centuries.
  • A significant hazard to marine animals and birds, which often mistake plastic as food.
  • Items with food and food residue contaminate the recycling stream.
 Bagasse Food Ware

  When does the ordinance take effect?

  • The ordinance will be effective January 1, 2019
  • Enforcement will begin July 1, 2019

Who must comply with this ordinance?

  • "Food and Beverage Provider" means any business, organization, entity, group, or individual providing prepared food or beverages for public consumption on or off its premises within the City of Santa Monica.
  • “Prepared Food” means any food or beverage prepared on the food provider’s premises, using any cooking or food preparation technique. This does not include any raw uncooked meat, fish, or eggs unless provided for consumption without further food preparation. Prepared food may be eaten either on or off the premises.

What is the City of Santa Monica’s definition of disposable food service ware?

“Disposable Food Service Ware” means disposable products intended for single or limited number of uses, used in the restaurant and food service industry for serving or transporting prepared, ready-to-consume food or beverages. Disposable food service ware includes, but is not limited to, plates, cups, bowls, trays, hinged or lidded containers, straws, stirrers, lid plugs, lids, and utensils. This does not include disposable packaging for unprepared foods. 


What are the penalties to retailers that do not comply with the Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance?

  • A verbal or written warning may be provided.
  • The 1st violation results in a fine of $75.00.
  • The 2nd violation results in a fine of $93.75.
  • The 3rd violation results in a fine of $112.50.
  • Repeat Violators could be forwarded to the City Attorney’s Office.

Why are disposable straws and utensils “Upon Request” if they are marine degradable?

Disposable straws and utensils sometimes are distributed to customers when they may not be necessary. Food and Beverage providers should work to reduce consumption of single use products regardless on the type of material they are made of. Single use products use natural resources to produce and can omit carbon emissions during manufacturing or distribution. The less production and distribution of food ware, the better.

Are there any exceptions to this ban? 

  • Yes, Food and Beverage providers can apply for an exemption due to significant economic hardship.
  • Food and Beverage providers can apply for an exemption if no reasonable alternative exists that is consistent with the requirements of this chapter and would mitigate such significant economic hardship. 
  • Exceptions for products, for the sake of appearance, will not be approved.  

Why are bio-based plastics (bio-plastics, PLA/PHA, cornstarch, "compostable" plastics) prohibited?

  • Although these types of  products are certified "compostable," they require a specific composting process in certain industrial composting facilities. Currently, no composting facilities in Southern California accept bio-plastics. 
  • Because these types of products resemble other petroleum-based plastics, they often are mistaken for petroleum-based plastics. 
  • These types of products cannot be recycled. Bioplastics ending up in the recycling stream can contaminate it.  
  • These types of products can take years to degrade in a natural environment.


Last updated: Tuesday, 11/06/2018
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Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and the Environment
1685 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90401 · (310) 458-2213 · TTY (310) 917-6626