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New City of Santa Cruz To-Go Cup Fees and Food Packaging Changes Aim to Help Environment

Post Date:01/30/2020 10:45 AM



Jan. 30, 2020


Janice Bisgaard, Community Relations Specialist, (831) 420-5166

Leslie O’Malley, Waste Reduction Manager, (831) 420-5593


SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — On Jan. 28 the Santa Cruz City Council adopted an update to its Environmentally Acceptable Food Packaging and Products Ordinance. The changes intend to encourage greater environmentally sustainable business practices while aligning with a similar Santa Cruz County ruling. They become effective on Sept. 8.

The changes expand the current Ordinance’s definitions of “compostable” and “biodegradable” for disposable food service ware at retail food service establishments and also include a 25-cent fee on hot and cold drinks sold in disposable cups. This fee intends to reduce waste by encouraging retail customers to bring reusable cups whether dining in or taking beverages out. Businesses will keep the fee.

Details added to the definitions state that to-go ware sold as compostable and biodegradable must completely  decompose and return to elements found in nature within a reasonably short amount of time after customary disposal, be fiber-based, and certified free of intentionally added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by the Biodegradable Products Institute or other third-party certification entity.

The Ordinance changes also encourage businesses to offer a 25-cent credit to customers who bring in their own cup and/or container. The changes further encourage businesses to utilize durable/washable dishware and utensils whenever possible.

“Reducing the amounts of disposable food packaging products in Santa Cruz will help protect our environment from contamination and degradation,” said Waste Reduction Manager Leslie O’Malley. “With more and more evidence of the negative impacts of such disposed waste, we want to encourage businesses, residents and tourists to make environmentally responsible choices.”

The City’s waste reduction team will work with all impacted businesses to ease the transition of the Ordinance changes. Questions may be addressed to Waste Reduction Manager Leslie O’Malley at or (831) 420-5593.

The updated Environmentally Acceptable Food Packaging and Products Ordinance can be accessed at



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