Los Altos City Council Approves Polystyrene Ban Effective July 4, 2014

On January 28, 2014, the Los Altos City Council adopted an Ordinance that will prohibit the use of expanded or extruded polystyrene (EPS) foam food containers in the City of Los Altos beginning July 4, 2014. The Ordinance will also restrict the sale of EPS coolers or ice chests which are not wholly encapsulated or encased within a more durable material. 

What is EPS and why is the City banning it?

Often referred to as Styrofoam®, EPS is a form of plastic that has been identified as a distinctive litter concern because it’s lightweight, floats and readily travels from land to inland waterways and out to the ocean where it breaks down into small pieces where it is mistaken for food by birds and other marine wildlife. EPS food service ware comprises a majority of EPS litter observed in storm drains. The EPS ban requires providers to use alternative service ware that should result in a reduction of EPS litter, reduce the risk of harm to aquatic wildlife, and improve water quality in the City of Los Altos creeks, the Southern San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

Who does this ordinance affect?

Any establishment, vendor, business, organization, group or individual offering prepared food or beverages, regardless of charge, including but not limited to:

  • Cafeterias, including at private schools
  • Caterers
  • Convenience, liquor & grocery stores
  • Coffee shops
  • Food kiosks
  • Mobile & street food vendors
  • Restaurants, bars & pubs
  • Supermarket delis




Ordinance Elements

  • Effective July 4, 2014, a food provider shall not dispense prepared food to a customer in a polystyrene foam food container;
  • Effective July 4, 2014, polystyrene foam food containers and polystyrene foam service ware shall not be sold or provided by any vendor in the City;
  • EPS products included in this ban include plates, trays, cups, bowls, and hinged or lidded containers and EPS coolers or ice chests not wholly encapsulated within a more durable material;
  • Business owners may chose alternatives that best meet their needs;
  • Provides financial hardship and unique packaging exemptions;
  • Items excluded from this Ordinance include pre-packaged food such as raw eggs and raw, butchered meat and pre-packaged food that is not removed from the container before its sale (e.g., ramen noodles in an EPS foam cup.)