Santa Monica Non-Recyclable Food Service Container Ban

Banning non-recyclable foodware for prepared food providers and City events (Non-Recyclable Food Service Container Ban), 2007

Santa Monica, CA

Santa Monica banned plastic #6 & foam foodware

Santa Monica banned plastic #6 & foam foodware

How IT can benefit you

Within only three hours, volunteers picked up over 75,000 pounds of trash from Santa Monica beaches, most of which was polystyrene foam and plastic.  Styrene in foam foodware can leach into food and drink and can cause cancer in humans.  And polystyrene foam breaks into smaller, non-biodegradable pieces that are eaten by animals, which can harm or kill them.

So Santa Monica created the Non-Recyclable Food Service Container Ban.  See the bans:

  • Printable, display size pictures of containers that are banned (#6 plastics), not recommended (bio-plastics, all of which the city cannot compost), and allowed (recyclable plastic and compostable paper)
  • Vendors
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Successes
  • Ordinance
  • Staff Report

Help businesses get a friendly reminder if they use banned, non-recyclable plastic with the recycling symbol #6.

Why this is a leading policy

Unlike San Francisco's and Richmond's foodware ordinances, Santa Monica does not recommend bio-plastics because they contaminate recycling bins and the city cannot compost them (even if they are labelled "compostable").

The city also created a guide on how food providers can use and promote reusable foodware, create less waste, and serve healthy food.  For example, some vendors got creative and used paper cones for fries.

The city also encourages food providers to save money on foodware by giving customers discounts or other treats if they bring reusable foodware.


Protect people and animals from cancer-causing styrene foodware and prevent waste.

Who can take action

Prepared food providers and City operations, city managed concessions, and city sponsored and permitted events.


Over 600 food vendors, 100 food trucks and all city facilities stopped using non-recyclable foodware as of 2012. Santa Monica Airport uses compostable-coated paper cups, paper plates and bowls and 100% post-consumer recycled napkins. Santa Monica City College and all private and public school have phased out all polystyrene in their cafeterias.

No one requested an exemption (or went out of business due to the ban) and less than 5% of food vendors received warnings or citations.

Support & Opposition

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

Budget to Coordinate the Program

Additional staff (0.25 full time equivalent) and funding for materials were needed to conduct workshops and outreach during a two-year interim period. The budget to implement the ban was approximately $45,000.

Fines fund the program. The city penalizes violators with a written warning first, $100 for the second violation, then daily fines of up to $250 for subsequent violations.


Josephine Miller, Environmental Analyst, City of Santa Monica, 310-458-4925,

Last Updated

October 9, 2015