Ban On Single-Use Plastics Gets Initial Approval In Marin CountyPosted on
Marin County supervisors gave their initial approval Tuesday of a ban on the use of single-use plastic containers and utensils at restaurants, bakeries and other businesses that sell food.
The ordinance, which the board approved unanimously, will require businesses to offer to-go food containers made of fiber-based compostable material, as certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute, although the county will continue to allow the use of aluminum foil to package food.
Food containers and utensils at dine-in businesses will also be required to be reusable, with exceptions for some items like paper napkins and straws.
Businesses will only be allowed to offer so-called “food accessories” like cup sleeves, lids and stirrers upon request and those they provide must also be fiber-based compostable products, according to county officials.
For businesses like coffee shops that continue to offer disposable cups, the county will require the addition of a $0.25 surcharge.
The additional charge can also be waived for those receiving food stamp benefits or those who bring their own cup or container.
Sarah Jones, the assistant director of the county’s Community Development Agency, told the board Tuesday that county staff estimates the switch to reusable food containers and other products would reduce the county’s plastic use by some 100 million items each year.
“By switching to reusable products or compostable products, we are taking the material that was going into the landfill and putting it in our composting systems or not having it go into the system in the first place,” Jones said.
The county first began exploring a ban on single-use plastic to-go products in 2019, but paused outreach to local businesses in early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
That outreach – which included more than 20 meetings with local restaurant owners and business groups, a food vendor survey and a county resident survey – resumed in May 2021.
The county also operated a grant program in the second half of last year to provide grants of up to $500 to help local food vendors purchase reusable food containers and other products.
According to county officials, roughly 25 percent of businesses across Marin County have used funds from the grant program.
The ordinance would not be the first in the county with the goal of limiting waste. In 2009, the county banned the use of polystyrene foam – commonly known by the Dow Chemical Co. designation, Styrofoam – to package and sell food.