Takeout Containers

Polystyrene Regulations

Walnut Creek's Polystyrene Ordinance was approved on May 20, 2014. The new law takes aim at a pervasive and persistent type of litter by restricting the distribution of food containers made from polystyrene foam, commonly referred to as Styrofoam. The ordinance took effect on December 18, 2014 for all food vendors in Walnut Creek (which includes restaurants, cafes, delicatessens and food trucks). 

Why is the Ordinance needed?
Food containers made from expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) is uniquely problematic when it becomes litter. EPS foam is a durable material that does not degrade. It breaks easily into tiny pieces, making it difficult to clean up. Those small pieces are often mistaken as food by fish and wildlife, and are harmful to their health. Litter in our local creeks is a significant environmental issue. In 2009, the State Regional Water Quality Control Board required that all cities and agencies with a permit to discharge stormwater develop liter reduction plans and take actions to reduce litter from the storm drainage conveyance. Over seventy California cities and counties have now adopted EPS bans according to Californians against Waste.

What is the Ordinance?
The Ordinance requires all restaurants and other food vendors, City facilities, City-sponsored events and City-permitted events from using disposable polystyrene-based food service ware (including  but not limited to, containers, bowls, plates, clamshell to-go containers, and cups). An identification symbol with the number “6” will appear on the prohibited foam products. The proposed Ordinance contains exemptions due to financial hardship and unique packaging requirements. Click here [PDF] to view the City's Polystyrene-based Food Service Ware ordinance.  

What are acceptable containers?
Compostable, reusable, or recyclable food service ware is acceptable. These products may be made from aluminum, uncoated or coated paper, cardboard, plastics coded with #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (excluding foam), or 7 or be made from corn, potatoes, or other plant-based material.  

How can a restaurant reduce container waste and lower its costs?
It is common knowledge now that polystyrene-based containers do not belong in our environment. These containers aren’t recyclable and end up in our storm drain, creeks, bay and ocean where they harm wildlife.
Here are three tips to help a restaurant lower its food service ware costs:

  1. Encourage customers to bring their own reusable drink containers
  2. Use reusable dishes and cups for “eat-in” customers
  3. Charge a “take-out fee” to cover the cost difference between using polystyrene and  recyclable and compostable containers

What are the proposed penalties for non-compliance?
Violations may result in fines of $500 per day of non-compliance per the City of Walnut Creek Municipal Code      

What are the resources available to restaurants?

Click here to view the list of compostable food service ware [PDF].
Click here to view the list of  recyclable food service ware [PDF].
Click here to view the list of recycled paper bags suppliers [PDF].

For inquiries, click here to send an email.