The city of San Mateo this week introduced an ordinance banning plastic disposables at restaurants in the city.

Tuesday’s City Council meeting included a discussion on a “Disposable Food Service Ware” ordinance to regulate the use of disposable wares by food facilities in the city.

The city’s ordinance is modeled after San Mateo County’s ordinance, which applies to unincorporated areas of the county. Adopted in February 2020, the county ordinance requires food facilities to use compostable, non-plastic plates, bowls, cups, straws and other food-service products or containers. These products can be made of compostable materials like paper, sugarcane, wood or bamboo.

YouTube video
The San Mateo City Council discusses Disposable Food Service Ware regulations.

Enforcement has not yet begun for the county ordinance. Initially, the county planned to enforce the ordinance starting March 2021 but will consider delaying enforcement to March 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Individual cities can choose to adopt the county’s ordinance, also with delayed enforcement, and most council members on Tuesday expressed a desire to do the same, mainly in light of the pandemic and the impact the ordinance might have on the restaurant community.

The cities of Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, Half Moon Bay and South San Francisco have already adopted the county ordinance as a model, with most opting for enforcement beginning 2022.

On Tuesday, the San Mateo council discussed a later enforcement date, October 2022, to allow extra time for businesses to test products and receive county resources to comply with the ordinance. One member of the public spoke in opposition to starting the ban later than the county’s ordinance.

A recording of Tuesday’s meeting is accessible online.