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Zero Waste Packaging Ordinance

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The Zero Waste Packaging Ordinance went into effect on January 1, 2017, and requires that all single-use food packaging used by licensed food establishments be recyclable or compostable. This includes packaging used to serve customers on-site or taken to-go. The ordinance applies to restaurants, bakeries, food trucks, grocery store delis and salad bars, gas stations and any other licensed food establishment. The goal of the ordinance is to reduce the amount of trash created by food and beverage packaging. 

Temporary exemptions


Staff presented the recommended exemptions for 2020 to city council on November 18, 2019. The following exemptions were approved:

  • Paper food wraps and liners (e.g. fast food wrappers)
  • Portion cups and lids (rigid polystyrene #6, two ounce or smaller)
  • Molded fiber products (e.g. clamshells, containers, bowls, etc.)
  • Paper plates
  • Asian takeout pails (plastic-lined paper, fold-top style)*

*This exemption will end on July 1, 2020. Food establishments that currently utilize such takeout pails will need to use current inventory and switch to a recyclable or compostable alternative by that date.

Past temporary exemptions

  • Polystyrene (#6 plastic) hot cup lids. This exemption began on January 1, 2017, and ended May 1, 2019.

Reminder: Any food establishment that chooses to utilize temporarily exempt items MUST provide information to customers to clearly indicate these items cannot be recycled or composted, and must be placed in the garbage. This information must be provided in print in one of the following ways:

  • Directly labeling exempt items
  • Including text on menus 
  • Posting signage where it is visible to customers

2019 ordinance amendments

In June 2019, the city adopted several changes to Chapter 12 of the city code. In addition to definition changes to harmonize with other parts of code, the primary changes were made to Article VI. Zero Waste Packaging. 

The following is a summary of the changes adopted. 

Effective January 1, 2020 for all food establishments

  • Compostable utensils: Food establishments will be required to utilize compostable utensils, when not providing reusable options.
  • Straws by request: Food establishments shall no longer provide straws to customers, unless requested. A front-of-house straw dispenser or other self-serve setup will meet the requirement of the ordinance.

 Effective January 1, 2020 for food trucks and July 1, 2020 for all other food establishments

  • Compostable cup labeling: Food establishments will need to ensure that all compostable cups and containers are labeled to indicate compostability.
  • Cup and container lids: Food establishments will need to ensure that lids used for compostable cups and containers are compostable and lids used for recyclable cups and containers are recyclable. 

Additional Information

Business resources


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Emily Barker, solid waste specialist