Polystyrene Foodware Ordinance


Effective June 1, 2015

The Town of Los Gatos has adopted an Ordinance that prohibits food providers from dispensing food and beverages prepared on the premises for “dine-in” or “take-out” customers using polystyrene “foam” food service ware.  

The Ordinance also prohibits  the sale of polystyrene foam ice chests/coolers at stores in Los Gatos.  The ordinance does affect prepackaged foods in foam cups or trays like ramen noodles, raw eggs, meat, fish or poultry.  

“Food provider” means a vendor, business, organization, entity, group or individual that offers food or beverages to the public for consumption on or off premises, regardless of whether there is a charge for food, such as a: restaurant, bar, pub, caterer, cafeteria, coffee shop, deli, liquor or convenience store, grocery, mobile food truck, push-cart, sidewalk or other outdoor vendor, road-side stand, festival or any retail food establishment.

The purpose of the proposed Ordinance is to reduce polystyrene in waterways and comply with regional water quality control requirements.  The ordinance took effect on June 1, 2015.

Who Does this Ordinance Affect?
Any establishment, vendor, business, store, organization, group or individual:
(1)    dispensing prepared food / beverage for dine-in or take-out (regardless of charge) or 
(2)    selling polystyrene foam food containers and foam ice chests

Including, but not limited to:

  • Cafeterias at schools and places of employment (regardless if open to the public)
  • Caterers and fraternal clubs
  • Convenience, liquor and grocery stores
  • Mobile food vendors, carts, food kiosks and stands
  • Restaurants, coffee shops, bars and pubs
  • Waiting rooms (regardless of charge)
  • Retail stores
  • Restaurant supply
  • Party supply
  • Drug stores
  • Hardware stores
  • Sporting goods

Ordinance Provisions

  • Effective June 1, 2015, no food provider shall dispense prepared food or beverage using polystyrene foam food service ware, regardless of charge .
  • Effective June 1, 2015, no vendor in the Town of Los Gatos shall sell or provide polystyrene foam food service ware or foam ice chests/coolers.
  • Polystyrene foam container includes cups, bowls, plates, trays, cartons, and hinged or lidded containers (clamshells); and polystyrene foam ice chests or coolers, unless wholly encased within a more durable material (e.g. metal with foam core).
  • Food providers may choose alternative paper, plastic or reusable containers that best meet their needs.
  • An exemption process is available for economic hardship caused by overstocked supplies that cannot be returned to distributors or for unique packaging needs.
  • Items excluded from the ordinance include pre-packaged food such as raw eggs and raw meat; and pre-packaged food delivered to the provider and sold in the same container (e.g. ramen noodles in a foam cup).

What is Polystyrene Foam and Why is the Town Banning It

Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) is a form of plastic that has been identified as a distinctive litter concern because it crumbles easily into small pieces, is lightweight, and easily windblown into streets and waterways that flow into the bay and eventually the ocean. It is difficult to collect by street sweepers and creek clean up volunteers.

The particles are mistaken as food by birds, fish and wildlife, causing reduced food consumption and impaired intestinal tracts.  Urban runoff pollutants attach to the particles and, if ingested by wildlife, can cause reproductive failure, disease or death. The ban should result in less foam litter, and result in improved water quality as required by the new Municipal Stormwater Permit.


Ordinance Implementation Letter to Businesses--May 1, 2015
Letter to Businesses 
EPS Informational Flyer
EPS Alternative Products Open Fair—August 25, 2014
EPS Alternative Product Pricing

For more information, call the Town of Los Gatos at (408) 354-6832 or email manager@losgatosca.gov