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Business For Good San Diego

What You Need to Know About the City’s Plastic Ordinance

As San Diego restaurants and businesses get ready to phase out Styrofoam products over the next couple of months, Business for Good is here to help. Here’s the checklist our members created to get started.

Where to get information from the city:

We recommend you bookmark the City of San Diego’s Environmental Services Department page and sign up to receive updates directly by entering your business’ information on the right of the page.

Information we think you should know, put simply:

Effective date

  • February 23 for single-use plastics (for example, straws and utensils by customer request)
  • May 24 for food products


Check back regularly with us because we’ll keep updating this section, since it’s not yet listed on the city’s website

Our understanding is that businesses who don’t comply after the effective dates above will be issued a warning for an initial offense. Subsequent violations may result in a fine not to exceed:

  • $200.00 for a first violation;
  • $350.00 for a second violation in the same 12-month period; and
  • $500.00 for each subsequent violation in the same 12-month period.

Alternative products

  • Keep checking the Environmental Services Department site to find acceptable alternatives to polystyrene foam.
  • Get in touch with your sales representative to ask them about acceptable containers they have available. If they do not carry them, request that they begin doing so. It’s amazing how much success our members have had just shopping around.
  • The city of San Diego’s website provides links to other cities that give you the list of alternative options they’ve approved. You should also check out Santa Monica’s list of suppliers.
  • We’ll be updating this section with a list of vendors that our members have had great success working with to get comparably-priced alternative products, so check back regularly. And let’s be clear: we don’t have any agreements or benefit in any way from recommending those vendors.

You can get a waiver from the city

  • You have to prove to the city’s Environmental Services Department that there’s no alternative for your need
  • Your business can get up to a 24 month waiver. You have to apply in 2019, then re-apply to extend the period by another year
  • There is an automatic waiver in place through February 23, 2020 for business entities with a gross annual income of less than $500,000 on their most recent federal income tax filing.


  • Seagulls are the main reason why tons of styrofoam end up in our beaches every year.
  • If only we taught people to take care of their litter better, the problem would be solved.
  • You can’t enter SD city limits with a drink you were served in a city without an EPS ban.
  • All businesses are going to go bankrupt if they stop using polystyrene products.