On November 8, 2022, the Truckee Town Council adopted a Single-Use Foodware Reduction Ordinance including the following policies: 

  • A ban on the sale and distribution of polystyrene foam, e.g. Styrofoam (effective April 1, 2023) 
  • Food vendors must provide reusable foodware for in-house dining (effective January 1, 2024) 
  • Food vendors must charge a $0.25 fee for each disposable takeout food container and cup provided.  Vendors keep the fee revenue, and customers on WIC, EBT, or Medi-Cal are exempt from the fee. (effective January 1, 2024) 
  • Accessory foodware items must only be provided if requested by the customer. This includes utensils, chopsticks, condiment cups and packets, straws, stirrers, splash sticks, cocktail sticks, napkins, cup lids, and cup sleeves. Note that some of these were already part of Assembly Bill 1276 and additions were incorporated for the local level (effective January 1, 2024) 

The ordinance was steered by the Single-Use Foodware Reduction Working Group, which was made up of business owners, members of the public, students, environmental advocates, and two Truckee Town Council Members. The group met six times throughout 2022 to discuss information presented by staff on expert findings, existing policies in other jurisdictions, and experiences of implementation from other regions. Staff later conducted surveys with community members and business owners to gather feedback on the Working Group’s recommendations. Survey results, working group recommendations, and alternative staff recommendations were presented to the Town Council and ultimately guided the development of the final ordinance. 

“These policies focus on reducing the number of disposable foodware items generated. The goal of the ordinance is to create a cultural shift towards reusable foodware in Truckee” says Melanie Conti, Program Analyst for the Town. “The $0.25 fee on cups and takeout containers is modeled after the grocery bag fee and research that supports that fees have a larger impact on behavior change than discounts.  The purpose is to incentivize customers to avoid the fee by bringing their own reusable cup or takeout container when ordering to-go.”  

Mayor Courtney Henderson was on the Single-Use Foodware Reduction Working Group and is passionate about our leadership in sustainable initiatives, “We are proud to be leading the way in environmental sustainability.  Polystyrene foam and single-use foodware have a large environmental impact, filling our landfills or worse, ending up as litter in our community. While there are eight other California cities that charge a $0.25 fee on disposable cups, we are the first municipality to require this fee in addition to a $0.25 fee on all take-out containers.  We need to be thinking outside the norm in order to create real, meaningful change.” 

A local analysis of litter collected from Truckee Litter Corps estimated that 68% of roadside litter in Truckee is foodware packaging. These products end up in our local waterways and natural environments, harming wildlife and creating clean-up and end-of-life management costs. Even when these products are properly disposed of, they take up space in our landfills and can emit greenhouse gases when they decompose. In addition, disposable foodware has embedded carbon emissions from the resource extraction, production, and transportation required to produce each product that is only used one time. 

Requiring reusables for in-house dining is estimated to eliminate 8 million disposable foodware items, between cups, utensils, plates, and bowls each year. This is equivalent to 130,000 pounds of waste. The business cost savings from avoided disposable foodware purchases is estimated to save limited-service restaurants an average of $4,500 per year. This does not include full-service restaurants, who are generally already providing reusables for customers dining in. Requiring accessories upon request will reduce 15 million disposable foodware accessories each year. Combined, waste avoided under these two policies is predicted to avert 4.78 metric tons of CO2 each year, equivalent to avoiding greenhouse gas emissions from 1 gasoline-powered passenger vehicle driven for one year.

Grant funding is available for businesses to assist in the transition to these new requirements. Up to $300 is available for businesses to purchase non-polystyrene foam foodware, as well as up to $1,000 for assistance in purchasing or installing a dishwasher, and up to $500 to purchase reusable foodware. Town staff will also be offering business assistance in implementing the new requirements. One-year waivers will be available through an application process if businesses need additional time to reach compliance. 

Learn more at:  keeptruckeegreen.org/singleuse 

Article written by Melanie Conti, Town of Truckee Sustainability Program Analyst