Please note the time change of San Rafael Regular City Council Meetings to commence at 6:00 p.m. 

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.

San Rafael now joins Fairfax, the County of Marin, Mill Valley, and Sausalito in banning polystyrene foam. Many other municipalities in California have also enacted EPS bans.

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
  • Recyclable plastics
  • "Eco" ware - compostable products (e.g. potato spoons)
  • Customer's own reusable dishware, when appropriate

Step 2: Identify where you can find these products

  • We recommend that you ask your current provider what kinds of non-foam options they carry. If they do 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 polystyrene ordinance is in accordance with San Rafael's Climate Change Action Plan, which seeks to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions and targets a Zero Waste goal for San Rafael. Another initiative in the Climate Change Action Plan is the exploration of a plastic bag ban ordinance, which is expected to be reviewed by City Council within the next several months.

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.
  5. Disposable straws, utensils, or hot cup lids.

For more information on the ban, please email us.

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