Greenest: Stainless Steel, Ceramic, or Glass Foodware

No votes yet




Environmental & Health Information

Reusable foodware reduces the amount of waste going to the landfill. In addition, non-plastic foodware does release potentially hazardous chemicals into food.

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: 

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

PFAS, or Per- and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (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.

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 PFAS, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or polystyrene (Styrofoam). No foodware products purchased by the City may be labelled as “biodegradable,” “oxy-degradable” or “degradable,” per California Public Code Section 42355(f). 

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 Plastic Products:
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.  

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

Last updated

Last updated: 
June 27, 2018

Guide for City Staff

Citywide Contract

Write a Review

Log in or register to post reviews