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San Diego

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Polystyrene Foam and Single Use Plastics Ordinance

IMPORTANT INFORMATION The City of San Diego approved a waiver for meat trays from the Single Use Plastic Reduction Ordinance (SDMC section 66.0902 [a]) through May 23, 2021. The waiver will exempt polystyrene foam meat trays used for raw meat, fish, and poultry sold at grocery stores in San Diego. The waiver is issued based on the required time needed by grocery stores and product producers and distributors to make the transition to alternative packaging.

PDF icon San Diego’s Polystyrene Foam and Single Use Plastics Ordinance takes effect February 23, 2019. The ordinance regulates products made from polystyrene foam, sometimes referred to by the brand name “Styrofoam®,” and the distribution of certain single-use straws and utensils. Frequently asked questions.

Straws, Utensils, Cooler

 Effective February 23, 2019:

  • A food vendor may only distribute plastic straws upon request of the customer (sit down or takeout)
    • Plastic straws may be offered to customers or provided at self-service stations.
  • A food vendor may only distribute plastic utensils upon request of the customer (takeout only)
    • Plastic utensils may be offered to customers or provided at self-service stations.
  • The following shall not be distributed if made in whole or part from polystyrene foam unless encased within another material:
    • coolers, ice chests, or similar containers;
    • pool or beach toys; and
    • dock floats, mooring buoys, or anchor or navigation markers.
  • All polystyrene food service ware, food trays, egg cartons, coolers, ice chests, and pool or beach toys are prohibited from City facilities (including special events) at parks, recreation centers, beaches, lakes, offices and other City owned or leased facilities.

Effective May 24, 2019:

      • No person may distribute egg cartons, food trays, or food service ware made in whole or in part from polystyrene foam.
      • Food service ware includes: bowls, plates, trays, cups, lids, and other similar items designed for one-time use for prepared foods, including containers for eating in, takeout food, or leftovers.

RESOURCES (English/Spanish)

For Businesses to Display Information for Customers





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

Paper (coated with materials other than clay, for example, poly, PLA, or other materials)


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.
"Compostable" and biodegradeable" plastic, sugarcane, bagasse, bamboo, molded fiber and other similar items



Food ContainersAsk your current supplier about their products that meet the City’s new requirements.  You may also check these other cities' lists of alternative products, but make sure each item meets the City of San Diego’s alternative product criteria:

City of Encinitas

City of San Jose

PDF icon City of San Francisco

Exception: Prepared food packaged in food service ware or food trays made from polystyrene foam that are packaged outside the City of San Diego and provided in original packaging.

Waivers: Please PDF icon download the waiver form, complete and sign it, then follow instructions on the form to submit.

  1. Feasibility-based hardship for food service ware and food trays.
    • Must demonstrate that no reasonably feasible alternative exists.
  2. Financial hardship for food service ware and food trays.
    • Must demonstrate that applicant’s gross income is less than $500,000 on their most recent federal income tax filing; and
    • Must demonstrate that no suitable and reasonably affordable alternative product is available.
  3. Contractual requirement. 
    • Must demonstrate that a contract to purchase non-compliant material was entered into within one year prior to February 23, 2019.

NOTE: There is an automatic waiver in place through February 23, 2020 for business entities with a gross annual income of less than $500,000 on their most recent federal income tax filing.


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