PRESS RELEASE: Marin County Supervisors Advance Plastic Utensil Ban

April 12, 2022

The reusable food utensil ordinance is for supervisors

Utensils and other packaging should be compostable

San Rafael, California – Marin County, long considered a leader in sustainability practices and environmental causes, is putting the finishing touches on a proposed ordinance that would ban plastic utensils and other take-out food that isn’t reusable nor compostable. If approved, enforcement of the order would be phased in as businesses adjust to the changes.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors plans to introduce the ordinance April 19 and plans to place it on the May 10 agenda for adoption. Details can be found at www.marincounty.org/foodware. If supported by the Council, the ordinance would only affect food vendors in unincorporated parts of the county; it is up to each municipality to establish its own policy. If the ordinance passes, county staff plan to work with local municipalities to seek countywide consistency for all food facilities in Marin.

Staff at the Marin County Community Development Agency (CDA) are aware of recent challenges faced by food-related businesses due to COVID-19 and have delayed the introduction of the ordinance to comply economic realities. Furthermore, the application of the ordinance would begin 18 months after its adoption. The phasing-in would give companies time to switch supplies and deplete existing stocks. However, the proposed order would take a proactive approach by regularly notifying all owners of retail food establishments of the requirements of the proposed order and only taking enforcement action if necessary.

CDA staff have worked on the ordinance for several years, namely those in the Division of Sustainability and the Division of Environmental Health.

The draft order was first introduced in February 2020, and feedback from the public and supervisors has been incorporated into the latest version. The movement to ban plastic food utensils is partly fueled by the reaction to an online public survey in 2019 that showed 90% support for requiring food vendors to use reusable, recyclable or compostable utensils.

The ordinance would require the use of reusable and compostable tableware materials such as plates, bowls, cups, utensils and trays in restaurants, grocery stores, delis, bakeries, take-out vendors, convenience stores, farmers markets, food trucks and other food items. electrical outlets. If dishware or dishware made from compliant compostable natural fibers is not commercially available, as determined by the EHS Director or designate, the county may approve a temporary exemption of dishware or dishware not specific reusables until they are made commercially available.

Under current rules, only a limited amount of synthetics can be composted in Marin; the rest goes to landfills. The county’s largest waste processor, the WM EarthCare Composting Facility at the Redwood Landfill & Recycling Center[External] north of Novato, does not accept many commonly labeled compostable materials such as bioplastics. Additionally, franchised waste companies around Marin accept slightly different materials for recycling, composting, or hazardous waste disposal and have different community outreach strategies.

Plastic waste accounts for a large part of the debris that pollutes rivers, streams and the ocean. Reducing plastics at source by encouraging reuse and recyclable or compostable materials would reduce debris and improve environmental conditions.

In 2009, the county banned styrofoam in food packaging from restaurants, food retailers, and county facilities in unincorporated areas of Marin. Fairfax, San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley and Sausalito then enacted their own bans.


This press release was produced by the Marin County Government. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.