Green: Compostable, Single-Use Plates, Food Containers, Trays, Straws, Cups & Lids With No Toxic Fluorinated Chemicals

No votes yet


When to Use

Only buy these products if your city can compost them. Avoid putting compostables in the landfill because they release methane, a polluting greenhouse gas.



Info on this product category: Foodware

Why Go Green

Foodware on this webpage does not contain polystyrene (Styrofoam) or bisphenol-A (BPA).  Polystyrene is not recyclable and its monomer, styrene, is a known carcinogen.  BPA exposure in small amounts has been linked to cancer, asthma, obesity, attention deficit disorder, altered development of the brain and immune system, low birth weight and lowered sperm counts.

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

Citywide contracted single-use foodware must not have PFAS or polyvinyl chloride (PVC).  PVC usually has phthalates (some of which disrupt our hormones and probably causes cancer), and sometimes 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

These specifications establish a hierarchy of environmentally preferable foodware products as follows: 

Required Specifications:

  • Greenest: Durable reusable foodware made of stainless steel, aluminum, ceramics or glass; 
  • Greener: Reusable plastic foodware without bisphenol-A (BPA);
  • Green: Single-use foodware that is recyclable or compostable and complies with other environmental requirements.

Suggested Specifications

  • Napkins


Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS): Fluorinated chemicals are a category of compounds that includes long- and short-chain per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl compounds, fluorinated sulfonate compounds, and fluorinated polymers.

Required Specifications

General Requirements For All Products:
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, or plant-based renewable materials as these products are easily distinguishable from other products as compostable or recyclable.  Single-use foodware purchased by the City shall not contain acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate (PC), polystyrene, polyurethane (PU), PFAS, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC).  No foodware products purchased by the City may be labelled as “biodegradable,” “oxy-degradable” or “degradable,” per California Public Code Section 42355(f). 

Starting July 1, 2019, these items are prohibited: straws, stirrers, splash sticks, cocktail sticks, toothpicks, or beverage plugs made with plastic including compostable, bio- or plant-based plastic.

Additional Requirements For Reusable Plastic Foodware:
Reusable plastic foodware must contain no bisphenol-A (BPA), be dishwasher safe, and have the highest available postconsumer waste content.

Additional Requirements For Compostable Products

Starting January 1, 2020, compostable foodware must be certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) except for napkins, stirrers, splash or cocktail sticks, toothpicks and utensils made entirely of natural fiber.

Additional Requirements For Compostable Plastic Products:
All plastic products claiming to be compostable must be certified compostable by 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.  

Additional Requirements For Compostable Or Recyclable Paper Products:
Compostable or recyclable foodware made from paper or other plant-based renewable materials must meet or exceed the following requirements:

  • Soup containers: Minimum of 85% post-consumer recycled content
  • Hot drink cups: PLA-Lined, maximum post-consumer recycled content preferred, with a minimum of 10% post-consumer recycled content
  • Cup sleeves for hot drinks: Unbleached paper, minimum 100% post-consumer content
  • Napkins: Unbleached napkins preferred, maximum post-consumer recycled content preferred, with a minimum of 10% post-consumer recycled content

Suggested Specifications for Napkins

  • Napkins: Unbleached napkins preferred, maximum post-consumer recycled content preferred, with a minimum of 30% post-consumer recycled content (per EPA CPG) and either be certified by Green Seal, UL EcoLogo or FSC, or contain 100% total recycled content. 

Last updated

Last updated: 
March 27, 2019

Guide for City Staff

Citywide Contract

Write a Review

Log in or register to post reviews