Foam Food Ware Ordinance

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Read Union City's Foam Food Ware Ordinance

Effective January 1, 2017, the City of Union City prohibits expanded polystyrene (EPS), commonly known as Styrofoam, food containers from being distributed in the City by restaurants and other food providers. 

Why a foam food container ordinance?

Lightweight pieces of expanded polystyrene (EPS), commonly known as Styrofoam™, are a significant source of harmful litter, are often wind blown into waterways, and are a threat to wildlife and water quality. Clean up of this type of litter is time-consuming, difficult and costly. The ordinance will also help the City of Union City meet State Stormwater Permit requirements.  

Who does the ordinance affect?

Any Union City establishment which provides prepared food or beverages including but not limited to:

  • Fast food establishments
  • Restaurants
  • Grocery and convenience stores
  • Delicatessens
  • Mobile food trucks
  • Caterers
  • City facility users

What does the ordinance prohibit?

A proposed foam ordinance would prohibit food vendors from distributing in Union City containers made from expanded polystyrene including but not limited to:

  • Plates
  • Cups
  • Bowls
  • Hinged containers (clamshell style)

Not subject to the ban:

  • Polystyrene foam containers for raw meat, fish, poultry, or eggs
  • Foods packaged outside of Union City and later sold within the City
  • Single-use straws, coffee stirs, utensils, and hot cup lids
  • Foam ice chests or packaged food service ware sold by retailers for non-commercial use are not be prohibited.

What are possible alternatives to EPS food ware, and where can I purchase them?

Alternatives to foam food service ware include paper, aluminum, and recyclable plastic. Restaurant supply stores and retail stores including Costco and Smart & Final carry alternative products. Cost will vary by product, vendor, and volume of purchase. Food establishments should refrain from purchasing plastic food service ware products labeled “biodegradable” or “compostable” often labeled #7 because these items are neither recyclable nor compostable in the City of Union City’s collection program.

How will a foam food container ordinance be enforced?

Compliance through education and outreach is the first step. The ordinance will be enforced as complaints are received. Violators will receive one verbal notice without penalty. Subsequent violations could result in a citation and a monetary fine of $100 with increasing citation fines for repeat violations.

Can I be exempt from the requirements of the ordinance? An exemption may be granted if a business can demonstrate undue hardship.

Have other cities phased out foam food ware?

Nearly one hundred (100) California cities and counties have adopted EPS food ware ordinances, including the cities of Fremont, Hayward, San Leandro, Livermore, Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, Emeryville, Albany, Alameda County and 34 other jurisdictions in the greater Bay Area.

Where can I get more information?

Visit the City website at www.unioncity.org/eps, contact the City’s Recycling and Solid Waste Program at (510) 675-5466 or 5353, or by email: robertom@unioncity.org.org or jenniferc@unioncity.org.