Guide to Laws Affecting the Environment in the San Francisco Bay Area

Environmental laws are made at the federal, state, and local level.

Be sure to read our Guide to Laws about the Environment in California and our Guide to Laws Affecting the Environment in the U.S.

Styrofoam

Is polystyrene foam (“styrofoam”) banned in California?

Currently polystyrene foam (also known as styrofoam) is not banned statewide in California, but many cities have banned it from being used in takeout food packaging. Here are those in the greater bay area:

Alameda (2008) Expanded polystyrene ban, requirement that all takeout food packaging be compostable or recyclable.

Albany (2008) Expanded polystyrene ban, requirement that all takeout food packaging be compostable or recyclable.

Belmont (2012) Expanded polysytrene ban that is essentially an extension of the San Mateo County ordinance, adopted by reference and effective October 2012.

Berkeley (1988) One of the first EPS foam foodware ordinances passed in 1988 and effective January 1990.

Burlingame (2011) Expanded polystyrene ban referencing San Mateo County’s ordinance on May 16, 2011 and effective January 2012.

Capitola (2012) Prohibits the sale of expanded polystyrene products as part of the 2009 Plastics Ordinance that was expanded in 2012.

Carmel (1989) Expanded polystyrene ban for restaurants passed in 1989.

El Cerrito – On September 17th, the El Cerrito City Council finalized a polystyrene foam foodware ordinance for restaurants. Effective January 1st, 2014.

Emeryville (2008) Expanded polystyrene ban, requirement that all takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable.

Fairfax (1993) Expanded polystyrene ban for all restaurants and food retail vendors. Title 8.16 of Municipal Code.

Foster City (effective April 1, 2012) Polystyrene ban for restaurants and food vendors, adopted October 17, 2011.

Fremont (effective January 1, 2011) Expanded polystyrene ban for food vendors, requirement that all takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable.

Half Moon Bay (effective August 1, 2011) Half Moon Bay passed an ordinance, referencing San Mateo County’s polystyrene food container ban, on May 17, 2011.

Hayward (effective July 2011) Expanded polystyrene ban for restaurant vendors, requirement that takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable.

Hercules (2008) Expanded polystyrene ban. Sec.5-3109, Title 5, Chapter 3 of Municipal Code.

Livermore (2010) Food vendors are required to use recyclable or compostable takeout food packaging.

Los Altos Hills (February 1, 2012) Ban on eps and non-recyclable plastic food containers.

Marin County (effective January 1, 2010) Expanded polystyrene ban.

Marina (2011) Expanded polystyrene food container ban. Requires the use of recyclable or compostable takeout food packaging unless alternatives are unavailable.

Menlo Park (2012) Adopted San Mateo County ordinance by reference in August of 2012. Effective 11/1/12.

Millbrae (2008) Polystyrene ban, requirement that all plastic takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable.

Mill Valley (2009) Food vendors and city facilities are prohibited from using expanded polystyrene foam food containers.

Monterey City (2009) Expanded polystyrene ban, requirement that all takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable.

Monterey County (effective November 2010) Expanded polystyrene ban, requirement that all takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable. Title 10, Chapter 10.42 of Municipal Code.

Morgan Hill (2014) In October 2013, Morgan Hill City Council approved an expanded polystyrene foodware ban similar to other ordinances in Santa Clara County. Effective April 22, 2014.

Novato (2013) City Council approved a polystyrene foodware ban for restaurants in May 2013 that is effective January 1, 2014.

Oakland (2007) Expanded polystyrene ban, requirement that all takeout food packaging be compostable. Businesses that generate a large portion of litter must pay a litter fee. Title 8.07 of Municipal Code.

Pacific Grove (2008) Expanded polystyrene ban, requirement that all takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable. Title 11, Chapter 11.99 of Municipal Code.

Pacifica (effective January 1, 2010) Expanded polystyrene ban.

Palo Alto (effective April 22, 2010) Expanded polystyrene ban.

Pittsburg (1993) CFC processed polystyrene ban. Title 8.06.210 of Municipal Code.

Portola Valley (effective October 25, 2012) Polystyrene ban (San Mateo County ordinance).

Pleasanton – In April 2013 Pleasanton City Council passed an expanded polystyrene foam ban for food vendors effective July 2013.

Redwood City (effective January 1, 2013) Polysytrene ban (San Mateo County ordinance).

Richmond (effective August 5, 2010) Polystyrene ban, requirement that all plastic takeout food packaging be compostable.

Salinas (passed August 16, 2011) Expanded polystyrene ban on takeout containers

San Bruno (effective April 1, 2010) Polystyrene ban, requirement that all plastic takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable.

San Carlos (effective July 1, 2012) Adopted the San Mateo County ordinance by reference. Chapter 8.27 of Municipal Code.

San Francisco (2007) Expanded polystyrene ban, requirement that all takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable.

San Jose (2010/2013) Government facility expanded polystyrene ban for special events established in 2010. Citywide EPS foam ban for restaurants/food vendors passed in 2013.

San Leandro (effective November 1, 2012) Expanded polystyrene food container ban, adopted October 2011.

San Mateo City (2013) Ordinance includes a ban on all polystyrene foodware at food vendors with limited exceptions passed by City Council in May 2013.

San Mateo County (2008 and 2011) Government facility polystyrene ban passed in 2008. An expanded ban for the rest of unincorporated San Mateo County was passed in 2011, effective July 1, 2011.

San Rafael (2013) City Council passed a polystyrene foam ordinance in September 2012 that is effective September 2013.

Santa Clara County (Effective February 1, 2013) The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors adopted an eps takeout container ban for unincorporated parts of Santa Cleara County on June 5, 2012.

Santa Cruz City (2012) Ban on sale of all foam polystyrene products. Prior to 2012, the City banned the distribution of expanded polystyrene food containers, with a requirement that the food packaging be recyclable or compostable.

Santa Cruz County (2008 and 2012) Expanded polystyrene ban, requirement that all takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable. Title 5, Section 46 of Municipal Code. The ban was expanded to prohibit the sale of all expanded polystyrene products in stores on April 17, 2012.

Sausalito (effective September 1, 2008) Food vendors and city facilities and events are prohibited from using expanded polystyrene foam food containers.

Scotts Valley (2009) Expanded polystyrene ban, requirement that all takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable.

Seaside (effective August 4, 2010) Polystyrene ban with requirement that all plastic takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable.

South San Francisco (2008) Polystyrene ban, requirement that all plastic takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable.

Watsonville (2009) Expanded polystyrene ban, requirement that all takeout food packaging be recyclable or compostable. Title 6, Chapter 6 of Municipal Code.

Yountville (1989) Expanded polystyrene food container ban.

Plastic straws

In the city of San Francisco, plastic straws are essentially entirely banned. That is, businesses are not allowed to give out plastic drinking straws at all.

Straws made out of other materials, such as paper straws, are not affected by any of these laws.

Buildings & Development

Can new homes still use natural gas?

Yes. Although some cities including Berkeley, San Francisco, and San Jose have banned the installation of natural gas in new homes, a lawsuit has forced cities to put the ban on hold.

Resources

How do I find out more information about air quality?

Check with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Related Pages

Guide to Animal Rights in the SF Bay area

Health & Healthcare Laws in SF Bay area

See all Legal Guides


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