Disposable Foodware Ordinance

Compostable utensils, straws, stirrer stick, and produce bag


Plastic straws, utensils, stirrer sticks, drink plugs, produce bags, and other disposable plastic items are no longer allowed in Palo Alto.

The City of Palo Alto has adopted the Disposable Foodware Items and Other Disposable Products Ordinance to protect local watersheds and oceans, reduce litter, and encourage Zero Waste. The ordinance is part of a larger Disposable Foodware Packaging Reduction Plan.

Banned Items

Effective January 1, 2020 the following items are no longer allowed in Palo Alto:

 Plastic StrawsPlastic Straws

UtensilsPlastic Utensils

Plastic StirrersPlastic Stirrers

Plastic Beverage PlugsPlastic Beverage Plugs

Plastic Produce BagPlastic Produce Bags


There are a variety of resources available to help you comply with the ordinance.

  • Technical Assistance - For technical assistance including site visits, staff trainings, Zero Waste best practices, and educational materials (e.g., signage, flyers), contact GreenWaste of Palo Alto at (650) 493-4894 or pacustomerservice@greenwaste.com 
  • Signage, Material Guides, and Other Tools - For signage, including a custom online sign making tool, service and material guides, videos and other helpful tools, visit our What Goes Where Tools webpage.



  • Reusable - Reusable items are items that were meant to be washed and reused many times.
  • Disposable - Disposable items are items that were meant to be used only once and then discarded. These items can be recyclable, compostable, or landfill. 
  • Compostable - Compostable items are items that are accepted in Palo Alto's compost program.
  • Upon Request - Upon Request means offering foodware items to customers only if they ask for them or via a self-serve station.
  • Produce Bag - Bags used to hold produce, meat, bulk food, or other food items.


Compostable Produce Bag Requirement

What your business needs to know

What is required:

Bags used to hold produce, meat, bulk food, or other food items must be acceptable in the City’s compost collection program. 
The City’s compost program accepts paper bags and bags made of compostable plastic if they meet the ASTM Standard Specifications for compostability (D6400 or D6868), or the product is Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certified.

Who is affected: 

All retail service establishments and farmers markets that use produce bags as defined above are affected. This includes grocery stores, markets, and farmers markets.

Disposable Foodware Items Ordinance

What your business needs to know

Items affected:

Plastic utensils, straws, stirrers, drink plugs, and other small plastic foodware items.

Who is affected:

All food service establishments will be affected. This includes restaurants, bars, delis, grocery stores, food trucks, hotels, convenience stores —anyone serving food in Palo Alto.

What is required:
  • Use only reusable or compostable utensils, straws, stirrers, drink plugs, and other small plastic foodware items.
  • Compostable items must be acceptable in the City's compost collection program. 
    Detailed list of acceptable materials
  • Offer these disposable items (i.e., the compostable items) only upon request or via a self-serve station.

Switch To Reusables

Palo Alto's long-term plan

Palo Alto’s long-term plan is to eliminate the use of disposable foodware items. Disposable foodware items are those created to be used once then discarded. They even include items made from recyclable or compostable materials. Free technical assistance is available to help your business switch to reusable items. Contact Zero Waste Palo Alto for more information.

PAUSD Starts Using Reusables

After Labor Day 2019, Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) Food Services began serving student meals at elementary school sites using reusable dishware and cutlery.  This transition, which will be the first phase in a multi-phase plan to move all sites to reusable food service items, will keep PAUSD in alignment with the City of Palo Alto’s zero waste goals. Students, who are already familiar with the three sort waste system, will return their reusable food service items to rolling carts outfitted with red bins which will be added to three sort stations at their campuses. PAUSD anticipates significant waste reduction as a result of this move to reusables.


Reducing Takeout Waste

Check out this Vox video. It does a good job explaining the problem and solutions to takeout waste.