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San Diego

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Polystyrene Foam and Single Use Plastics Ordinance

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: The City is staying enforcement of Ordinance No. 0-21030 N.S. prohibiting the distribution or use of polystyrene (also known by the trademarked name Styrofoam) within the City of San Diego pending the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act. During this time, using, selling, and distributing polystyrene foam is not prohibited under Ordinance No. 0-21030 N.S. within the City of San Diego.

PDF icon San Diego’s Polystyrene Foam and Single Use Plastics Ordinance

Polystyrene foam products are not easily recyclable and can end up in the environment as litter and possibly harm wildlife.

Plastic straws are a significant contributor to marine pollution and are among the most common forms of litter collected on California beaches.

While the EIR is being prepared and the Polystyrene Foam and Single Use Plastics Ordinance is not being enforced, businesses and restaurants can choose to use either polystyrene foam or alternative products.

The most preferred alternative products are those that can be reused or recycled. See below for a list of alternatives to polystyrene foam.

Alternatives to Polystyrene Foam


Material Product Comments
Reusable service ware Reusable plates, bowls and cups Wash and reuse
Paper (uncoated or clay coated) Bowls, plates, trays, cups, hinged containers, boxes Recyclable if free of food
Aluminum Trays, lidded containers, wrap Recyclable if free of food
Plastic (rigid, non-foam) Bowls, plates, trays, cups, lids, hinged containers Recyclable if free of food

NOT Preferred

Material Product Comments
  • Paper (coated with materials other than clay, for example, poly, PLA, or other materials)
  • "Compostable" and "biodegradeable" plastic, sugarcane, bagasse, bamboo, molded fiber and other similar items
Bowls, plates, trays, cups, hinged containers, boxes, lids, wrap Not Recyclable, must be placed in trash. Not accepted in local recycling or composting programs. Does not help San Diego reach its zero waste goals.

Ask your current supplier about alternatives to polystyrene foam. You may also check these other cities' lists of alternative products: