News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 10/29/2013
Subject :

Bag Ordinance at Palo Alto Restaurants Starts November 1
Contact : Julie Weiss, Environmental Specialist    650-329-2117
Palo Alto, CA – The City of Palo Alto's Disposable Bag Ordinance goes into effect this Friday. Restaurants and other food service establishments will no longer distribute single-use plastic to-go bags. Instead, customers can opt for no bag, use a paper bag at no charge if provided by the restaurant or place to-go food in their own reusable bag after purchase. Plastic product bags without handles can still be used around individual containers of soups or stews to prevent spilling if the container doesn't provide sufficient protection by itself.

This is the third phase of Palo Alto’s expanded bag ordinance that started at grocery stores in 2009 and was then expanded to all retail in July of this year. "Plastic to-go bags from food service establishments are regularly found in local creeks," says Acting Assistant Director for Public Works–Environmental Services Ken Torke. "We have started to see a reduction of retail bags in creeks just since July and we are optimistic that this phase of the ordinance will do even more to reduce bag litter on streets and in creeks." At September’s Coastal Clean-up day at Adobe Creek, staff saw an almost 60% reduction in plastic checkout bags found there compared to last year’s event. The reduction is attributed to the combined impact from Palo Alto’s ordinance and those from surrounding communities because plastic bags are notorious for blowing into waterways across jurisdictions.

Palo Alto is the second city on the Peninsula to require restaurants to help reduce plastic bag litter. San Francisco’s bag ordinance went into effect at restaurants on October 1, and the County of Santa Cruz enacted a requirement for restaurants in its unincorporated areas last April. The cities of Malibu and Fairfax have had similar requirements for several years.

As the ordinance goes into effect, the City reminds the community to remember to bring their own bags by keeping reusable bags by the door, in their cars or near keys. Keep foldable bags in pockets, backpacks and purses. For answers to frequently asked questions visit or call 650-329-2598.