Industrial Consumer





Info on this product category: Foodware

Why Go Green

Foodware on this webpage does not contain polystyrene (Styrofoam).  Polystyrene has hazardous substances and suspected cancer-causing chemicals.

Center for Environmental Health tested products listed above as "greener" to ensure they have no toxic fluorinated chemicals (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)).  PFASs:

Citywide contracted single-use foodware must not have polyvinyl chloride (PVC) because it usually has phthalates (some of which disrupt our hormones and probably causes cancer), and sometimes it has lead (which can cause reproductive problems and nerve disorders), and when PVC is made or disposed, it releases cancer-causing dioxins. 


In San Francisco, compost and recycle:

  • Paper cups and ice cream containers go in blue recycling bins.  Other paper foodware (e.g., plates, boxes, napkins) that touched food go in green compost bins.
  • Plastic (e.g., bags, food wrap, containers) and metal go in blue recycling bins.
  • Plastic that says "compostable" and "certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute" go in green compost bins.  

Criteria for Foodware

Reusable foodware is preferred. If not possible, foodware must be recyclable or compostable.



Compostable: All the materials in the product or package will break down into, or otherwise become part of, usable compost (e.g., soil-conditioning material, mulch) in a safe and timely manner in an appropriate composting program or facility that serves San Francisco residents, businesses and City departments. All plastic products claiming to be compostable must be certified compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), proving that the finished product meets ASTM standards D6400 or D6868 of compostability. Compostable plastic products must be clearly labelled “compostable” in green color or within a green band in order to distinguish the product from conventional plastic. Cutlery must be embossed with the word “compostable” on each piece.

Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs, often referred to as PFCs):  Fluorinated chemicals, often referred to as PFCs and PFASs are a category of compounds that includes long- and short-chain per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl compounds, fluorinated sulfonate compounds, and fluorinated polymers. Fluorinated chemicals include any compound that meets any one of the following definitions:

  • Perfluoroalkyl substances: Compounds for which all hydrogen atoms on all carbon atoms (except for carbons associated with functional groups) have been replaced by fluorine atoms.
  • Polyfluoroalkyl substances: Compounds for which hydrogen atoms on at least one, but not all, carbon atoms have been replaced by fluorine atoms.
  • Fluoropolymers: Carbon-only polymer backbone with fluorine atoms directly bound to the polymer backbone.
  • Perfluoropolyethers: Carbon and oxygen polymer backbone with fluorine atoms directly bound to carbon atoms.
  • Side-chain fluorinated polymers: Variable composition non-fluorinated polymer backbone with fluorinated side chains.

Polystyrene: A type of polymer made from the monomer styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon that is commercially manufactured from petroleum. At room temperature, polystyrene is normally a solid thermoplastic, but can be melted at higher temperature for molding or extrusion, then re-solidified.

Recyclable: Material that can be sorted, cleansed, and reconstituted using San Francisco’s available recycling collection programs for the purpose of using the altered form in the manufacture of a new product. Recycling does not include burning, incinerating, converting, or otherwise thermally destroying solid waste.

Recycled content: Also called “post-consumer content.” Defined as finished material normally disposed of as solid waste, having reached its intended end-use and completed its life cycle as a consumer item, that is included in the production of new products. When indicating a level of recycled content in products, any reference to recycled content should exclude “in-house” or recovered materials that are routinely reprocessed on the premises as part of the manufacturing process and would never have been sent for disposal.

Health & Environmental Requirements

These specifications establish a hierarchy of environmentally beneficial attributes as follows: reusable; compostable in a commercial or municipal facility; easily recyclable; and made with a minimum percentage of post-consumer recycled content, sustainably harvested content, or other environmental attributes. In addition, all products purchased by the City, on contracts or off-contract shall not contain PFAS and polystyrene.

Whenever possible, products that are reusable must be purchased.  Where this is not feasible, single-use food service materials should be made of paper, aluminum foil, bagasse, or wood as these products are easily distinguishable from other products as compostable or recyclable. 

California Public Code Section 42355(f) prohibits labelling plastic products as “biodegradable” “oxy-degradable” or “degradable.” 

Compostable plastic products:

  • Must not contain additives that include hazardous chemicals, including but not limited to persistent, bioaccumulative, or toxic chemicals; carcinogens; mutagens; reproductive toxins.
  • Must not contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate (PC), polyurethane (PU) or PFAS.
  • If the compostable product has a shelf life, the expiration date needs to be clearly printed on the packaging or shipping box.

For items intended for “hot use,” products must not melt, deform or break apart when in contact with hot food or liquids. 

These products must meet or exceed all of the following requirements:

  • Container, hot soup, hold up to 205 degree content temp, paper, 5oz., made with minimum  85% plant-based renewable resources
  • Cup, hot drink, PLA-Lined, paper, made with 100% plant-based renewable resources
  • Cup sleeve, hot drink, unbleached paper, min. 100% post-consumer content, fits 8, 12 & 20 oz. size paper cups
  • Napkin, white, dispenser type, minimum 10% post-consumer recycled content, 12” x 13” 
  • Napkin, beverage, unbleached, minimum 75% post-consumer recycled content, 1 ply, 10” x 10”
  • Napkin, white, embossed heavy duty, 1 ply dispenser type, minimum 75% post-consumer recycled content, 12” x 13”

Last updated

Last updated: 
June 15, 2018