Path to Plastic Free Business Toolkit

This information is for local food and beverage providers to help identify disposable food service ware that is marine degradable and help in locating suppliers of alternative products. The outreach program strongly encourages the use of the most sustainable packaging types from a resource use and marine debris perspective. It is part of the Path to Plastic Free Laguna Beach program which offers visitors, residents and businesses an unprecedented opportunity to play a pivotal role in reducing plastic pollution.

No Longer Allowed

A new Laguna Beach ordinance regulates types of food service ware that restaurants can provide their customers. 

Businesses must now stop using plastic products, such as take-out containers, straws, bags, cutlery and utensil sleeves and begin using compostable ones. 

How to Make the Switch from Plastic

Reusable materials are always best. When their use is not practical, we recommend non-plastic alternatives, such as those made from paper, sugar cane, or bamboo.

Please note that non-plastic alternative straws, stirrers, or cutlery may only be provided upon request by the customer.

There are several options available as alternatives to plastic cups. These plant-based plastic cups are available at Amazon. These aluminum cups available at many retailers, including Amazon and Walmart.

Click here for resources for procuring high-quality marine degradable and reusable products from Food Service Ware Distributors and Manufacturers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why has the City of Laguna Beach banned single-use plastic food service ware?

The intent of the Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance is to significantly reduce the environmental impacts related to single-use plastics and promote a major shift towards the use of reusable food service ware. This ordinance supports the City's goal to divert 95% of the waste citywide from the landfill by 2030, as well as the City’s on-going effort to protect the health and safety of our beaches.

When does the ordinance take effect?

The ordinance is effective July 15, 2021.

Who must comply with this ordinance?

“Food vendors" — any restaurant or retail food vendor located or operating within the city, including any sidewalk vendor that sells food.

“Beverage provider” — any business, organization, entity, group, or individual located in the City of Laguna Beach that offers liquid, slurry, frozen, semi-frozen, or other forms of beverages to the public for consumption.

The ordinance also applies to City facilities.

What is the City of Laguna Beach’s definition of disposable food service ware?

“Disposable Food Service Ware” means single-use disposable products for serving or transporting prepared food or beverages, including without limitation takeout foods and/or leftovers from partially consumed meals prepared by a restaurant or food vendor. Disposable food service ware include containers, bowls, plates, trays, cartons, ice chests, lids, straws, forks, spoons, knives, and other items and utensils. 

Why are biologically based polymers, such those made from corn or other plant sources, compostable and biodegradable petroleum cutlery, and biologically based polymer straws prohibited?

Although these types of products are certified "compostable," they require a specific composting process in certain industrial composting facilities. Currently, no composting facilities in Southern California accept bio-plastics.
Because these types of products resemble other petroleum-based plastics, they often are mistaken for petroleum-based plastics. These types of products cannot be recycled. Bioplastics ending up in the recycling stream can contaminate it. These types of products can take years to degrade in a natural environment.

Are there any exceptions to this ban?

Yes. The city manager or designee may exempt a food vendor or retail food vendor from the requirements of this chapter for a one-year period, upon a showing by the applicant that the conditions of this chapter would cause undue hardship. An “undue hardship” may consist of:


  1. Situations unique to the food provider where there are no reasonable alternatives to expanded polystyrene or nonrecyclable plastic food service ware and compliance with this chapter would cause a severe economic hardship to that food provider;
  2. Situations where no reasonably feasible available alternative exists to a specific and necessary expanded polystyrene or nonrecyclable plastic.
    • A food provider granted an exemption must reapply prior to the end of the one-year exemption period and demonstrate continued undue hardship, if it wishes to have the exemption extended. Extensions may only be granted for intervals not to exceed one year.
    • An exemption application shall include all information necessary for the making of a decision on the application, including, not limited to documentation showing the factual support for the claimed exemption. The applicant may be required to provide additional information to permit the determination of facts regarding the exemption application.
    • An exemption application may be approved in whole or in part, with or without conditions.
    • The city manager or his/her designee may also determine to exempt from the requirements of this chapter the procurement of supplies or services in the event of a proclaimed emergency or when otherwise deemed necessary by the city manager for the immediate preservation of the public health, safety or general welfare.