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Environmental Services

Special Events

The Environmental Services Department provides tools and resources to help people manage their waste reduction and recycling efforts at City of San Diego-permitted events. Multiple environmental regulations that apply to events have recently been updated. 

three bins with signs

The City of San Diego Recycling Ordinance has been amended to include requirements of California Senate Bill 1383 (SB 1383), requiring the diversion of organic waste (food, food-soiled paper and plant trimmings) from landfills. The responsible person for a special event must provide recycling and trash containers throughout the venue, and organic waste recycling containers must be available if the event generates, distributes, provides or sells food or other organic material. Additionally, large events with 2,000 or more daily attendees that charge admission or are operated by a local agency must enroll in an edible food recovery program and donate surplus edible food.

three cardboard collection bins

As of April 1, 2023, events must comply with the Single Use Plastic Reduction Ordinance, which prohibits the sale and distribution of most polystyrene foam products, and requires that single-use plastic straws and utensils only be provided upon the customer's request. 
Both ordinances apply to special events held on public property that require a permit from the City of San Diego. Typical events include runs, walks, triathlons, festivals and parades. For more information on special event permits, visit the Office of Special Events web page.

Disposal of Trash, Recycling and Organic Waste

The Recycling Ordinance requires:

  1. The number of recycling containers at special events equals the number of trash containers, at a quantity approved in the special event permit, based on the size and type of event.
  2. Recycling and trash containers must be set up in pairs throughout the event.
  3. Organic waste recycling containers must, at minimum, be placed in food production and preparation areas, near food vendors and distributors, and around designated eating areas.
  4. Organic waste recycling containers must be paired with trash and recycling containers.
  5. Each container must be clearly identified as recycling, organic waste or trash.
  6. All recycling and organic waste containers must have a label of text and/or images of the primary materials accepted and prohibited for each type of container.
  7. All areas where recycling and organic waste are collected and stored must have signage.
  8. The event's coordinator must ensure that all recyclable and organic waste materials are delivered to a recycling facility and not to a landfill.

Edible Food Recovery

Starting Jan. 1, 2024, large events with 2,000 or more attendees per day that charge admission or are operated by a local agency must enter into a written agreement with a food recovery organization or service and arrange for them to collect the surplus edible food or accept edible food to be self-hauled to their facility.

Events must separate all edible food from what would otherwise be thrown away. Food previously served cannot be donated. It is the responsibility of the event organizer to ensure that the event and any food facilities operating within the event comply with the requirements. 

For specific questions on what foods are donatable, please contact San Diego County’s Department of Environmental Health and Quality, Food and Housing Division at 858-505-6900 or

Visit the ESD’s Edible Food Recovery web page for additional information. 

Single Use Plastic Reduction Ordinance

The City of San Diego’s Single Use Plastic Reduction Ordinance (SUPRO) regulates plastic and bioplastic straws and utensils and prohibits using polystyrene foam products at all special events. 

If you intend to distribute food at your event, you and any event vendors must comply with the ordinance, which requires the following:

  • Plastic or bio-plastic straws and utensils may only be distributed upon the customer's request and/or provided at self-service stations.
  • Polystyrene foam food trays or foodservice ware cannot be provided or offered at the event.
    • Foodservice ware includes bowls, plates, trays, cups, lids and other similar items designed for one-time use for prepared food. 

Visit the ESD’s Single Use Plastic Reduction Ordinance web page for specific information about the new ordinance, alternatives to polystyrene foam and FAQs.