County of Marin - News Releases - Survey on Plastics

For Immediate Release
October 23, 2019

Share Feedback on Possible Plastic Utensil Ban

Residents invited to share thoughts on ordinance update through survey

San Rafael, CA – What would you think if the County of Marin considered a ban on single-use plastic food service products at retail businesses? You have a chance to voice your opinion in a new online survey offered by the Environmental Health Division of the Marin County Community Development Agency (CDA). It takes about 30 seconds to fill out.

A man sits at a table and eats his lunch with a wooden forkA proposed ban on single-use plastics from retail food businesses in unincorporated Marin would encourage the use of reusable or compostable materials such as these wooden utensils.
Under current rules, only a limited amount of synthetic material can be composted in Marin; the rest goes into a landfill. The county’s largest waste product processor, the WM EarthCare Compost Facility at the Redwood Landfill & Recycling Center near Novato, does not accept many commonly labeled compostable materials such as bio-plastics. Also, franchised refuse companies around Marin accept slightly different materials for recycling, composting, or hazardous waste disposal and have different strategies for outreach to the community.

Rebecca Ng, the CDA Deputy Director who oversees the Environmental Health Division, said the County is working with a contractor to gain exposure for the project and gather resident opinions.

“Plastic waste is a large portion of the debris polluting our rivers, streams, and ocean,” Ng said. “Reduction of plastics at the source by encouraging re-use and recyclable or compostable materials would reduce debris and improve environmental conditions.” 

November 10 will mark the 10-year anniversary of the County’s ban on polystyrene foam in food packaging by restaurants, retail food vendors, and County facilities within the unincorporated areas of Marin. Fairfax, San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley and Sausalito have adopted their own bans. The Environmental Health Division enforces the ordinances via its food facility inspection program.

Ng said an updated County ordinance would define alternative materials that would be acceptable for composting, include language about consistent implementation of the policy, and lay out a coordination plan with the local food service industry. The ordinance will use the hierarchy of reusables are best, compostable fiber food ware is compliant, and single-use plastics are prohibited.

“This could be big adjustment for some businesses, so we are talking about establishing a transition period to help affected vendors comply with any new requirements prior to a site inspection,” Ng said.

Environmental Health is scheduling stakeholder meetings in November and December while working on a draft ordinance. The staff plans to bring the draft to the Board of Supervisors for possible adoption in January 2020. If it’s approved, staff would follow up with technical assistance for businesses in the unincorporated areas of Marin and work with other municipalities to seek countywide adoption of the ordinance.


Rebecca Ng
Deputy Director of Environmental Health Services
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 236
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6907
Email: Rebecca Ng
Environmental Health Services