Frequently Asked Questions

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Zero Waste Food Ware FAQ’s

Q: Why was the Zero Waste Food Ware Ordinance established?

Production and management associated with single-use food service ware, typically used for a short period of time, and then discarded, has significant environmental impacts. These environmental impacts include environmental contamination, consumption of energy, water and non-renewable fossil fuels, emission of greenhouse gases, air and water pollutants, depletion of natural resources, plastic litter on streets and waterways and increased litter clean-up and waste management costs.

Single-use food ware and packaging are common and persistent litter items found in our local environment. A 2017 study of trash in the Russian River revealed that of the total litter items collected (2,578) over sixty percent (60%) were single-use items of some variety (plastic wrappers, plastic bags, food packaging, lids/straws and miscellaneous plastic pieces). Polystyrene foam products alone accounted for approximately 10% of the total litter items collected.

Furthermore, in 2019, Santa Rosa Stormwater and Creeks cleanup programs removed 1,031 cubic yards of trash deposited directly into our storm drain system or into the active channels of our creeks. According to Stormwater and Creeks staff, polystyrene and plastic food ware/packaging are regular litter items detected in Santa Rosa’s waterways. When polystyrene foam enters the storm drain system or into our creeks it often breaks apart into many smaller pieces that can be virtually impossible to retrieve.

The Zero Waste Food Ware Ordinance is designed to reduce the use and disposal of single-use food ware that contribute to street litter, marine pollution, harm to wildlife, greenhouse gas emissions and waste sent to landfills.


Q: Who is affected?

The Ordinance includes, but is not limited to, the following entities operating in the Santa Rosa city limits:

  • Food facilities including restaurants, bars, cafes, delis, cafeterias, food trucks and mobile food vendors, faith-based organizations, etc.
  • Retail establishments including stores, shops, sales outlets, convenience markets, etc.
  • Special event organizers who distribute food ware or other products prohibited under the Ordinance


Q: What are PFAS and why are they being prohibited from food service ware?

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyls (PFAS) are fluorinated chemicals commonly used in disposable food service ware, including compostable paperboard containers, to repel water and grease. These fluorinated chemicals pose a public health risk as they have been linked to serious health effects including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disruption, delayed puberty, and obesity. PFAS are commonly referred to as “forever chemicals” because they never break down and remain present in the human body. To read a recent study examining persistence, accumulation potential, and hazards of this chemical class, click here.

To verify that natural fiber-based food service ware is free of PFAS, they will need to be certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) or another party approved by the City of Santa Rosa.


Q: What if my food facility doesn’t provide reusable food ware for onsite dining?

Under the Zero Waste Food Ware Ordinance reusable food ware and reusable food ware accessories (durable/washable/intended to be used numerous times) are required for onsite dining establishments in Santa Rosa.

If your food facility doesn’t currently provide reusable food ware for onsite dining your food facility must make accommodations to become compliant with this requirement.


Q: What if I am unable to adhere to all the requirements of the Zero Waste Food Ware Ordinance by January 1, 2022?

The City of Santa Rosa understands it may take some time to implement the requirements of the Zero Waste Food Ware Ordinance. If your food facility or retail establishment is unable to adhere to the requirements of the Ordinance by January 1, 2022 you may apply for a one-year non-emergency waiver.

Non-emergency waivers may be provided to applicants based upon documentation that the requirements of the Ordinance would create an undue financial hardship or practical difficulty not generally available to other persons in similar circumstances.

If approved, waivers will only be granted for a fixed term of one (1) year not to exceed December 31, 2022. It is assumed that during this one-year waiver timeframe the applicant will make efforts to become compliant with all the Ordinance’s requirements.

To apply for a non-emergency waiver please visit


Q: What are the penalties for non-compliance?

If the City of Santa Rosa becomes aware of a non-compliant entity a Notice to Cure communication will be provided. The City wants to work with the community to address the Ordinance’s requirements. If the entity remains non-complaint after being provided a reasonable opportunity to cure the violation the entity shall be guilty of an infraction or misdemeanor as determined by the City Attorney under Chapter 1-28.

Penalties for violations of any provision of the Ordinance shall be as follows; provided, however, that no administrative citation may be issued, or infraction charged for violation of a requirement of the Ordinance until one year after the effective date (January 1, 2022) of the Ordinance:

  • A fine not exceeding $100.00 for the first violation.
  • A fine not exceeding $200.00 for a second violation of the same provision within one year.
  • A fine not exceeding $500.00 for each additional violation in excess of two, of the same provision within one year.
  • If continued willful violations occur the City reserves the right to suspend the vendors use permit
  • The remedies and penalties provided are cumulative and not exclusive


Q: What if I realize a food facility or retail establishment isn’t following the requirements of the Zero Waste Food Ware Ordinance?

You may notify the City of any non-complaint entities operating within Santa Rosa city limits at

For additional information please contact Transportation and Public Works at 707-543-3800