Single Use Disposable Foodware Ordinance Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Single-Use Disposable (SUD) Foodware Ordinance?
Ordinance No. 1527 was passed to align with the city's Zero Waste Action Plan. This ordinance will help reduce the use of single-use plastic foodware that contributes to street litter, marine pollution, harm to wildlife, waste sent to landfills, and greenhouse gas emissions. The main points are as follows:
- Food vendors with proper dishwashing capacity must use reusable foodware for onsite dining.
- Accessory foodware must be provided upon request or at a self-serve station. Example of accessory foodware include but are not limited to: straws, stirrers, napkins, cup sleeves, spill plugs, and more.
- All single-use disposable foodware, including accessory foodware, must be fiber-based compostable and free of poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFAS)
- Food vendors must charge a $0.25 fee per order for food served in disposable foodware. For example: if a customer orders a burger and a drink, they would only be charged $0.25 extra for the entire order, not for each disposable.
- Food vendors must offer at least a $0.25 discount per order for customers who bring their own reusable foodware for takeout. For example: if a customer orders two coffees and brings a reusable mug for each, it is only $0.25 off the order.
- When does the Single-Use Foodware Ordinace go into effect?
The SUD Ordinance went into effect March 6th, 2020. Enforcement for a majority of the ordinance began July 1st 2021. The fee and discount portion of the ordinance went into effect on January 1st, 2023.
- Where do all the $0.25 charges go after they are collected by businesses?
The fees and discounts are meant to encourage use of reusables and discourage use of single use products. Only one charge and/or discount can be applied per order and all the charges are kept by the businesses. Profits from single use charges are meant to help offset the costs of switching to fiber-based compostable disposables.
- Where can I find a vendor list of compliant SUD?
A vendor list of fiber based compostable options can be found here. This list is a great place to start seeing the different options available on the market, but is not a comprehensive list of every possible alternative, and is subject to change based on product information.
- What disposable materials are compliant?
Fiber-based materials that do not contain fluorinated chemicals (PFAS) and have no bioplastic (PLA) or wax lining are compliant with the ordinance. Examples of this include materials such as paper, wood, sugarcane, bamboo, wheat, pasta, etc. For more examples of compliant materials, you can find a list here.
- Why are plant based/bio plastics not compliant?
PLA plastic material is made from plants instead of traditional petroleum-based plastics. If these items are certified compostable, this material can only be composted in a commercial composting facility with high heat and processing. Unfortunately, no such facility exists within Humboldt County. Without the ability to be composted, these materials end up in the landfill and environment, and act like traditional petroleum-based plastic.
- Is this a ban on single-use products at food establishments?
No it is not a ban. The City of Arcata implemented the Single Use Disposable Foodware Ordinance as a way to reduce the use of single-use plastic foodware that contribute to street litter, marine pollution, harm to wildlife, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste sent to landfills.
Single-use foodware used for food must be fiber-based compostable or 100% aluminum and will result in a $0.25 charge per order. Only one charge can be applied per order and must appear as its own line item on the receipt. All disposable foodware charges are kept by the food-service establishment to help offset costs of buying fiber-based compostable foodware.
Accessory foodware (straws, stirrers, napkins, single-use utensils, condiment cups and packets, cup sleeves, tops, lids, spill plugs, etc.) must also be fiber-based compostable AND must only be provided upon request by the customer or at self-serve stations. Customers must request accessory foodware items separate from food orders and beverages no matter where or how they order (in-person, phone, app, web browser).
- Cups for delivery by the food vender may include tops, spill plugs, and sleeves without request
- Food vendors are encouraged to use condiment dispensers rather than pre-packaged condiment packets.
- Is this a plastic water bottle ban?
This ordinance prohibits the sale and distribution of plastic water bottles on City property and at events permitted by the City to take place on City property
Businesses are still able to sell plastic bottles and use vending machines. Private events on private property can still sell and distribute plastic bottles.
- Are there exemptions?
Yes, items that do not have suitable alternatives on the market are exempt from the requirement to be fiber-based compostable. These materials are: hot liquid containers, cold cups, cup lids, soufflé cups (small cups typically used for samples or sauces), cutlery, grocery store pack-downs (kitchen prepared sides, sauces, and additions intended to have a longer shelf life than ready-to-eat take-out), and hot bar meal trays (containers used for storing ready-to-eat hot food often found at hot bars within grocery stores).
Any non-conforming disposable foodware item to be used in lieu of a conforming item - whether through exemption or waiver- must be recyclable through the City of Arcata recyclable collection program (plastics #1-7). In addition, businesses can request a waiver for certain materials if the owner or operator demonstrates that application of this section would create undue hardship or practical difficultly for that establishment. Waiver requests can be submitted to Arcata's Environmental Services Department at email@example.com
- If someone places an order using only exempted foodware, does that order still receive a $0.25 charge?
Yes, the charge is applied to all orders using disposable foodware. Even if all of the foodware is exempted from being compostable, it is still disposable.
- What if a customer brings a reusable container for part of their order and uses disposables for the rest of their order?
This situation is up to the discretion of the business. If most of their order is utilizing reusable containers, then we suggest that they be given the discount. If the reusable is only a small part of a much larger order including disposables, then we suggest that they be charged for the disposables. If the order seems somewhat equal, then we suggest that the discount and the charge be applied. Discount and fee implementation may vary depending on businesses point of sale system.
- What businesses are impacted by the ordinance?
It is applicable to all food vendors, food providers, food service establishments, restaurants, and retail stores including, but not limited to: restaurants, grocery stores, bars, cafes, food trucks, and cafeterias.
- What are the requirements for reusable foodware?
Food Vendors with dishwashing capacity must serve “dine-in” orders using reusable foodware. Customers may bring their own clean durable reusable containers for food orders “to-go” and must receive a $0.25 minimum discount on their order. Only one discount can be applied per order and must appear as its own line item on the receipt. Food vendors can refuse to accept reusable foodware that is not suitable, such as cracked, chipped, corroded, appear inappropriate in size, material, or condition for the intended use, or that appear unsanitary or soiled .
- Does the health code allow for customers to bring their own container for take-out?
Yes, the health and safety code allows for customers to bring their own containers that are clean and appropriate for use to be filled for take-out as per state bill AB 619. Facilities need to have set procedures in place to maintain sanitizing of their workspace and prevent cross contamination. If you have any questions or concerns regarding food safety or protocol, please contact the Humboldt County Department of Environmental Health at (707) 445-6215.
- What if the container brought by the customer does not seem suitable for use?
In accordance with California health and safety code, food vendors may refuse any containers that are cracked, chipped, corroded, appear inappropriate in size, material, or condition for the intended use, or that appear unsanitary or soiled.