San Francisco law restricts restaurants from offering customers disposable foodware

If you want a straw with your drink, you may soon have to ask at California restaurants.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

San Francisco restaurants are no longer allowed to offer customers plastic utensils or disposable food accessories with their orders.

If customers would like chopsticks, napkins, beverage lids and sleeves, stirrers and straws, they will have to request them with their purchase. That goes for takeout, in-house dining and delivery options, but self-service areas are still allowed to continue carrying those items.

The law took effect July 1. The Single-Use Foodware Plastics, Toxics and Litter Reduction Ordinance is stricter than a similar law approved by the Los Angeles City Council in April.


The L.A. ordinance prohibits restaurants from providing unrequested disposable plastic straws. According to a September 2018 report, plastic straws were the sixth-most collected item on California Coastal Cleanup days from 1988 to 2016, behind cigarettes, food packaging, caps and lids, plastic bags, and plastic utensils and dishes.

In the Bay Area, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that disposable foodware makes up two-thirds of the street litter in the bay and the ocean.

“Just adding the intervention of having people ask if you want utensils gets rid of the lowest-hanging form of waste — stuff people don’t even want,” Nick Lapis, director of advocacy at Californians Against Waste, a Sacramento advocacy group, told the Chronicle.

The San Francisco Department of the Environment posted printable cards for restaurants to inform customers that straws are available upon request. Disability advocates have raised concerns over limiting plastic straw usage for those with a disability and have pushed for restaurants to carry plastic straws, as metal and silicon alternatives do not always meet the required needs.