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Expanded Polystyrene Foam Takeout Container Ordinance

No More Foam Takeout Containers in San Rafael!

In September 2012, City Council passed an ordinance banning retail food vendors in San Rafael from carrying Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) containers, sometimes known by the brand name STYROFOAMTM, in their stores. These food vendors include cafes, restaurants, grocery stores, and hotel eateries, among others. This ordinance was passed on the basis of health and safety concerns for the City. Expanded polystyrene foam contains potential carcinogens, it is a non-recyclable resource, and it is a terrible nuisance in our landfills, storm drains, and streets.

EPS Ban: A step-by-step resource for business owners

This ban took effect October 31, 2013. All businesses must be in compliance by this date.

Step 1: Identify which products are okay to use

  • Paper products
  • Cardboard products
  • "Eco" ware - compostable products (Note: don't be fooled by greenwashing. Check the County's site for compliant products)
  • Customer's own reusable dishware, when appropriate

Step 2: Identify where you can find these products

  • Check the County's website on which products are compliant with the Reusable Foodware Ordinance, in effect in San Rafael. If your container provider does not carry any, you can request that they start providing them.
  • Check the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce business directory for businesses that sell compostable or recyclable containers.

Step 3: Learn from your neighbors

Has a business on your block already made the switch? Ask the owner or manager for advice on where to find the best deal on new containers, how to inform your customers of the switch, etc.

Further information on EPS:

Expanded polystyrene is bad for our environment and bad for our City. It is made out of harmful chemicals and carcinogens, it crumbles in the landfill and becomes a nuisance, and it can be found littered across the city in storm drains, parks, and streets. The California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) estimates that Californians use 165,000 tons of polystyrene foam each year. Moreover, polystyrene is ranked by the CIWMB as the second most impactful and harmful nonrenewable material.

The ordinance does exempt the following:

  1. Foods prepackaged outside the limits of the City of San Rafael.
  2. Packaging for raw meat, fish, or poultry.
  3. Coolers and ice chests that are intended for reuse.
  4. Emergency supplies or services used by public agencies for the promotion of public health and safety.

For more information on the ban, please Contact Us.

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