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waste reduction best practiceNon Recyclable Food Service Container Ban

Santa Monica, CA


Non Recyclable Food Service Container Ban

To decrease the amount of non-recyclable plastic polluting beaches and reduce litter clean-up costs.


Over 600 food vendors and all city facilities have stopped using non-recyclable food service containers. This has yielded a noticeable reduction in non-recyclable beach litter.

The City was awarded the 2010 Outstanding Waste Prevention Award from the California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA) for this groundbreaking program.

Background & Summary

The City of Santa Monica adopted Ordinance 2216 in 2007, banning the use of non-recyclable plastic food service containers. The ban took effect immediately for municipal operations, while food providers were allowed one year to come into compliance. The Ordinance prohibits the use of both expanded polystyrene and non-recyclable plastic (often marked with recycling symbol #6). Together, these products account for the majority of waste polluting Santa Monica beaches.

Plastic waste causes significant environmental damage to the beach and marine environment. It can also harm marine animals and birds who mistake it for food. Further, polystyrene can persist in the environment for hundreds of years.

A list of companies providing recyclable and compostable products is available through the Office of Sustainability and the Environment. Inspectors enforce the Ordinance as needed; but the City also relies on concerned citizens, who are invited to report non-compliant food providers through an online form or by phone. For the first violation, a written warning will be issued. The penalty for subsequent violations will be a daily fine in increasing amounts from $100 to $250, depending on the number of times the food provider has previously violated the Ordinance.

Public Outreach & Education:
An outreach campaign was developed to educate the community, food vendors, distributors and manufacturers. Workshops, presentations and site visits were offered from 2007 to 2009. Student interns also created and maintained an office gallery of non-recyclable, compostable and recyclable products used by Santa Monica food vendors.

The Office of Sustainability and Environment continues to offer one-on-one appointments for food providers that need assistance selecting alternative containers.

Fiscal Impacts

Additional staff (0.25 FTE) and funding for materials were needed to conduct workshops and outreach activities during a two-year interim period. The total budget related to implementation of the ban was approximately $45,000.

Contact for This Best Practice

Name: Josephine Miller
Job Title: Environmental Analyst
Jurisdiction: City of Santa Monica
Phone: (310) 458-4925

Last updated August 7, 2012



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