Expanded Polystyrene Regulation

On February 9, 2016, the City Council adopted an ordinance regulating the use and sale of expanded polystyrene  foam (also known as EPS, white plastic foam, or commonly referred to as StyrofoamTM) food containers and products in the City.  The ordinance will help to protect the City's natural environment and decrease the amount of waste sent to landfills.  The ordinance will become effective six (6) months after adoption, on August 9, 2016, to allow businesses ans retailers to consume any remaining stock of EPS products.

To whom will the ordinance apply?


All business in the City of Arroyo Grande, including, but not limited to, restaurants, supermarkets, delicatessens, retail outlets, food vendors, and caterers that serve prepared food to-go.  City-approved special events within Arroyo Grande must also comply with the ordinance.

What is Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) and why is it now regulated?


Expanded Polystyrene is a non-renewable, non-biodegradable, non-recyclable material that typically ends up in landfills or as litter in the waterways of the City.  Additionally, EPS can break into pieces, which are confused as food and subsequently ingested by wildlife.  EPS comprises approximately 15% of the litter found in storm drains and is the second most common type of litter on California beaches.

What makes food containers biodegradable, compostable or recyclable?


"Biodegradable" means a product or package will completely break down and return to nature; decomposing into natural elements within a reasonably short period of time.

“Compostable” means a product or package will break down into, or become part of, usable compost (such as mulch) in an appropriate composting program or facility.

"Recyclable” means a product can be recycled as part of the City’s Recycling Program, including uncoated paper, coated paper, cardboard, aluminum foil and other non-foam, plastic containers with the “chasing arrow” symbol numbers 1–7. 

What are alternatives to EPS?


Alternative products include: uncoated paper, coated paper, cardboard, aluminum foil, compostable or “bio-products” and other non- foam, plastic containers with the “chasing arrow” symbol numbers 1–7. Businesses should consult with their packaging supplier for the alternative that are right for them.

Are there any exemptions to these regulations?


Exemptions are provided for certain products, including:
  • Foam trays for uncooked meats;
  • Food prepared or packaged outside the City;
  • Packing materials received from outside the City;
  • EPS products that are fully encased in a more durable material, such as rigid plastic covered coolers and ice chests.
Additionally, the City Manager or designee, may exempt a Food Provider from these requirements for a one-year period upon the Food Provider showing, in writing, that the regulations would create an undue hardship or practical difficulty as evidenced by no alternatives being available or such alternatives are not affordable. 

For more information, please contact the Community Development Department.


Patrick Holub
Planning Intern
Phone: 805-473-5447