Carmel-by-the-Sea's New Food Packaging Requirements

The City Council recently approved revisions to Municipal Code Chapter 8.68 that will affect all restaurants and food vendors operating in the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea. The ordinance revisions, which will take effect in early 2018, will reduce litter, help keep our Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary healthy, and encourage recycling and composting of food service waste.

Disposable food packaging is used daily and is a significant source of trash on our city streets and on our beaches. When single-use plastics blow into the ocean, they can have devastating impacts on marine animals when mistaken as food and ingested. By only providing utensils and straws when they are requested, restaurants will help reduce unnecessary waste and litter. Additionally, many small disposable food packaging products that are used daily, such as utensils, cups, and straws, are not recyclable and must be landfilled. Recyclable products that have contained food are often also contaminated and end up in the trash. With many certified compostable alternatives now available on the market, our best solution is using certified compostable food packaging that can be disposed of in the food waste composting bin (the “yellow bin”). Using certified compostable products ensures that they will biodegrade completely, quickly, and safely. For a list of products that carry this certification, please visit BPI’s website (

In order to provide time for businesses to comply, the new requirements are phased as described below:

  • By January 4, 2018, all food packaging provided to customers by restaurants and food vendors shall be biodegradable/compostable or recyclable. This includes:

    • All to-go containers must be recyclable or certified compostable

    • No Styrofoam or number 6 polystyrene containers are allowed

  • By February 1, 2018, restaurants shall provide single-use beverage straws and to-go utensils only if requested by a customer.

  • By April 22, 2018, all disposable food service ware provided to customers by restaurants and food vendors shall be biodegradable/compostable, or recyclable.  This includes:

    • All single-use beverage straws and stir sticks must be certified compostable

    • All cups and lids must be certified compostable

    • All disposable to-go utensils must be certified compostable

    • No number 6 polystyrene products are allowed, including hot cup lids

These rules apply to restaurants, grocery stores, delis, farmers markets, food trucks, special events, and any other business or event where prepared food is sold for carryout or packaged for convenience. PLEASE TALK TO YOUR SUPPLIERS as many local food service suppliers have products that meet these requirements. Additionally, please see the attached list of environmentally-friendly food packaging suppliers in the Monterey Bay Area that can help you identify products that will meet your needs.

All restaurants and food vendors will need their suppliers to complete and maintain the Environmentally-Acceptable Food Packaging and Food Service Ware Statement to certify compliance with the City’s requirements. A fillable PDF version of this form can also be requested by contacting the Public Works Department at (831) 620-2070. If you have any questions about the new requirements, please contact the City’s Environmental Compliance Manager, Agnes Topp, at (831) 620-2078.

Organics Recycling
We would also like to remind our local businesses of the resources available to enable you to reduce waste and conserve resources.  We are thankful for your continued support in keeping Carmel-by-the-Sea clean and environmentally-friendly. Several of our local businesses are currently participating in our Organics to Energy food waste compost program, and many more are participating in recycling programs.

State law requires all businesses generating four (4) cubic yards or more of food waste to separate and compost all food waste material generated onsite. Starting January 2019, all businesses producing four (4) cubic yards or more of trash will be required to compost all food waste material. By composting, we keep organic material out of landfills and return nutrients to the soil. The benefits of composting include building healthy soil, conserving water, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

If you are interested in learning more about our recycling and food waste program options, please contact GreenWaste Recovery at (831) 920-6707, and they will arrange a visit to assess your needs and discuss service options. GreenWaste Recovery offers FREE onsite technical assistance to provide support necessary to effectively participate in recycling and organics programs.

For additional questions, comments, or concerns, please contact Environmental Compliance Manager, Agnes Topp at (831) 620-2078.

New Restaurant Rules Flyer

Food Packaging Statement Form