City of El Cerrito Foodware Ordinance


Effective July 1, 2022, the City of El Cerrito expanded its Foodware Ordinance, requiring single-use foodware to be compostable or reusable, and additionally requiring foodware accessories (e.g., utensils, straws, stirrers, etc.) to only be provided upon request. The new changes phase out single-use plastic foodware items within the City of El Cerrito.

The Expanded Foodware Ordinance has two components:

  1. All food providers (for example: restaurants, food trucks, and deli counters) in the city must use compostable or reusable single-use foodware (e.g., straws, eating utensils, and food containers) with limited exceptions. Compostable is defined as being accepted in the City's green-waste collection programs and being free of all intentionally added fluorinated chemicals. Note: Compostable plastics are not allowed. To make it easy for businesses to understand what kinds of products are compliant, the City produced a Compliant Disposable Foodware product guide, available here.
  2. Aligning with State law (Assembly Bill 1276), all Food Facilities must only distribute single-use foodware accessories (e.g., utensils, straws, stirrers, etc.) and condiment cups or packets, upon request by the consumer. This includes through delivery platforms (eg: DoorDash, GrubHub, Uber Eats, etc.). Note: Bundling or wrapping of foodware accessories is not allowed. Self-serve stations are okay. 

The City allowed for a two-year phase-in of this ordinance, but effective January 1, 2024 all food providers must comply with the Expanded Foodware Ordinance.

The City will assist food providers by providing training and building public awareness to support a smooth transition. Additionally, City staff sent a resource packet that includes a factsheet, the Compliant Disposable Foodware guide, and sample signage to impacted businesses in January 2023. Enforcement of the compostable foodware requirements will begin January 1, 2024.

These ordinances will help reduce the community’s environmental impact, reduce recycling contamination and costs, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the City’s Climate Action Plan and Strategic Plan goals.

Find details below about:

  • How the ordinance was developed
  • Who will be required to comply with the updated ordinance
  • Timeline for adoption and implementation
  • How to know what disposable foodware is compostable
  • Who to contact with questions


The City of El Cerrito adopted a Foodware Ordinance in 2013 to prohibit expanded polystyrene foam (“styrofoam”) take-out containers, and require the use of reusable, recyclable, or compostable foodware. The City Council, on November 16, 2021, adopted changes to the municipal code to phase out all single-use plastic foodware items in the city and encourage the use of reusable and compostable containers to help protect waterways, promote environmental sustainability, and reduce waste.

City Staff gathered input in order to develop the new ordinance. This included letters and in-person outreach to over 100 impacted businesses, hosting multiple public meetings, print and online outreach efforts, and engaging with stakeholders from the business community, the Environmental Quality Committee, and the City’s ADA Working group. 

Simultaneously, the State of California began approving legislation to reduce the waste generated from single-use foodware. In 2018, California adopted Assembly Bill (AB) 1884 requiring that full-service restaurants only provide single-use plastic straws upon consumer request. The State expanded on this law by passing AB 1276 on October 5, 2021. Under AB 1276, food facilities must require consumers to request single-use foodware accessories prior to providing those items. 

City Staff revised the 2021 Ordinance to be compliant with the new State law and to enable City of El Cerrito Staff to enforce the Ordinance, as required. The Ordinance requires single-use foodware accessories and condiment packages to be provided only upon request of the consumer within the City of El Cerrito and additionally enable the City to enforce the new requirements.


All food providers (defined as any vendor, business, organization, entity, group, or individual, including any restaurant or retail food establishment, providing food or beverage to the public) located or operating within the City of El Cerrito and any provider of prepared food at organized or special events occurring within the city are required to comply with the compostable foodware requirements of the updated ordinance.  The City will help food providers by providing technical assistance prior to any enforcement action and build public awareness to support a smooth transition. This includes restaurants, grocery stores, delicatessens, mobile food preparation and sale units, drive-ins, coffee shops, cafeterias, short-order cafes, luncheonettes, grills, sandwich shops, hotels, motels, movie houses, theatres, bed and breakfast inns, taverns, bars, cocktail lounges, nightclubs, roadside stands, take-out prepared food places, industrial feeding establishments, catering kitchens, commissaries, special events, food markets, produce stands, and food stands.

All food facilities (defined as an operation that stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends, or otherwise provides food for human consumption at the retail level) located or operating within the City of El Cerrito are required to comply with the foodware by request only requirements of the updated ordinance. The City will help food providers by providing technical assistance prior to any enforcement action and build public awareness to support a smooth transition.


The City will provide FREE technical training to businesses and food providers before pursuing any enforcement actions.

  • July 1, 2022: Single-use Foodware must be compostable or reusable.
  • September 15, 2022: Foodware Accessories must only be provided upon request. Enforcement may begin immediately.
    • The first and second violations of the these requirements (included in Section 8.24.070) shall result in a notice of violation, and any subsequent violation of that section shall constitute an infraction punishable by a fine of twenty-five dollars ($25) for each day in violation, but not to exceed three hundred dollars ($300) annually.
  • Fall 2022 - Winter 2023: City will build public awareness and offer food providers training and technical assistance.
  • January 1, 2024: Enforcement begins for single-use foodware to be compostable or reusable. The City will offer food providers on-going technical assistance.


The City has put together a sample list of Compliant Disposable Foodware items. This list is by no means exhaustive; it’s a sample of available options on the market. There may be other compliant products available in each category. The City does not recommend or mandate the purchase of any particular product. The list is informational only. This list was originally created by the County of San Mateo and has been filtered to only include products that are compliant in El Cerrito.

Food providers can also visit this website to search for specific products or vendors that provide compostable materials:

To comply with the Foodware Ordinance, disposable foodware products must be able to be composted through the City’s available composting and green waste collection programs and include no intentionally added fluorinated chemicals. There are some plastic products that are marketed as biodegradable or compostable, meaning, they break down and decompose in the environment. However, the Foodware Ordinance does not allow any plastic products, even if they are marketed as biodegradable or compostable, because these do not break down well in the City’s commercial green waste program. To make sure the disposable foodware you provide in the future will work in the City’s composting system, look for products that:

  • Are BPI Certified.
  • Meet the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International standards D6400 or D6868 for compostable materials.
  • Are made of paper, bamboo, sugar cane, or other natural materials that can be composted.
Plastic or bioplastic foodware are prohibited, including bowls, plates, trays, cartons, cups, straws, stirrer, lids, utensils, and other items that are designed for one-time use for prepared foods, including foodware for take-out foods and/or leftovers from partially consumed meals prepared by food providers, even if it is labeled as "compostable."


Food establishments are invited to schedule a visit or consultation with the City to receive information, ask questions to know how you will be affected, or share your thoughts.

For more information about the Expanded Foodware Ordinance, contact Contact Christina Leard, Management Analyst, at (510) 215-4338 or


Retailers or consumers who have any questions about these new regulations are encouraged to call the El Cerrito Operations + Environmental Services Division at 510-215-4350.
  1. Christina Leard

    Management Analyst III