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Food Service Packaging Requirements

Rain City Burgers

Current food packaging requirements

The City of Seattle requires all food service businesses to find recyclable or compostable packaging alternatives to all disposable food service items such as containers, cups, and other products.

This applies to all food service businesses, including restaurants, grocery stores, delis, coffee shops, and institutional cafeterias.

In addition, businesses with customer disposal stations where customers throw away single-use packaging must collect recyclable and compostable packaging in clearly labeled bins and sign up for composting and recycling service offered by a collection service provider.

Resources

What should my food service business do?

  • Stop using EPS foam food service products immediately.
  • Change to approved compostable food service packaging or recyclable packaging.
  • Provide compostable and recyclable collection bins for customer dining areas.
  • Sign up for recycling and composting services.

Banned items

The foam ban, which bans expanded polystyrene (EPS, sometimes called “Styrofoam”), took effect January 1, 2009. The ban on non-recyclable and/or non-compostable disposable food packaging and service ware took effect July 1, 2010.

Current exemptions to the packaging requirements

A temporary exemption is in place for utensils, straws, small portion cups, and foil-faced, insulated wrap until July 1, 2015.

Where can I find compostable and recyclable products?

You will find compostable or recyclable alternatives wherever you buy food service products. Compostable products must be approved compostable by the City of Seattle and the region’s major compost processor, Cedar Grove Composting.

View a list of Cedar Grove’s approved compostable packaging.

Caution: A large number of products advertised as “biodegradable” do not compost in the Seattle system. Because the intent of the City’s program is to minimize landfilling, products designed to be “biodegradable” in a landfill are not acceptable in Seattle. Be sure the products you buy are approved compostable.

Enforcement

It is illegal in the City of Seattle for any restaurant, café, grocery store, coffee shop, cafeteria or other food service business to sell or provide food, for consumption on or off premises, in expanded polystyrene (EPS “Styrofoam”) containers. Any person or business violating the ban on Styrofoam containers is subject to a civil penalty of up to $250 for each violation. Report businesses still using EPS foam containers to the Green Business Program at (206) 343-8505 or greenbusiness@seattle.gov.

Additional Resources

Food Packaging Requirements and Resource Flyer with 3-step information (pdf)
English | Amharic | Cambodian | Chinese | Japanese | Korean | Lao | Oromo | Russian | Somali | Spanish | Tagalog | Thai | Tigrinya | Vietnamese

Foam Ban Flyer (pdf) - Chinese, Korean, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese translations included

For interpretation services please call (206) 684-3000
Para servicios de interpretación por favor llame al (206) 684-3000
Về dịch vụ phiên dịch xin gọi (206) 684-3000
Wixii turjubaan afka ah ku saabsan, Fadlan la soo xariir taleefoonka (206) 684-3000
如需要口譯服務,請撥電話號碼 (206) 684-3000
Para sa serbisyo ng tagapagpaliwanag, tumawag sa (206) 684-3000
통역 서비스를 원하시면 (206) 684-3000으로 전화하세요

Related links

Green Your Business
Cedar Grove Approved Products
Ordinance 122751 - Food Packaging Disposables Ban (EPS Ban too)
Ordinance 123307 - Food Packaging Disposables Ban (EPS Ban too)
Ordinance 121372, 124313, and 124582 - Ban on recyclables, and compostables from residential, commercial and self-haul garbage.