Takeout Containers (Foam)

Put in Garbage Cart/Bin

Foam takeout food containers are typically soiled with food but cannot be recycled in the curbside program even if they are clean.  

Foam Food Container Ordinance

San José’s Foam Food Container Ordinance (Municipal Code Chapter 9.10, Part 17, fully effective as of January 1, 2015) requires all restaurants to use non-foam food service ware for both dine-in and takeout.

This ordinance allows restaurants to choose the best alternative for their business needs. Restaurants may also apply for unique packaging and financial hardship exemptions.

Why did San José adopt a Foam Food Container Ordinance to ban expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam food service ware, commonly known as Styrofoam™?

San José’s Foam Food Container Ordinance aims to reduce a pervasive and persistent type of litter by banning food service ware made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. EPS foam is uniquely problematic when littered because it does not degrade. It breaks easily into tiny pieces, making it difficult to clean up. Those small pieces are often mistaken as food by fish and wildlife and are harmful to their health.

Litter impacts our communities and threatens water quality and wildlife in our local creeks and Bay. In 2009, 26 creeks in the Bay Area, including Guadalupe River and Coyote Creek in San José, were declared as impaired by trash by the State Water Resources Control Board. Since the ban was fully implemented, a 2015-2016 study by the Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program suggests that the EPS ban has significantly reduced the volume of foam food service ware in the stormwater system.  Polystyrene containers that are not expanded (non-foam) are NOT recyclable in San Jose’s curbside program.  

Foam Goes in the Garbage

Hard plastic #6 is often accepted at recycling facilities, but foam plastic #6 is not. Throw these containers away, even if they are marked as plastic #6.

Ways to Reduce


Bring Your Own To-Go Container

When dining out, bring a reusable to-go container so that you can bring leftovers home sustainably.

Reusable Packaging For Businesses

Check out Upstream’s catalog of reusable packaging and unpackaging innovators that provide ways for consumers to obtain products, mostly food and beverages, in returnable, reusable, or refillable packaging – or they deliver products to consumers unpackaged altogether.

Did You Know?

The Preferred Takeout Container

Out of all the types of takeout containers — aluminum, cardboard, wax-lined paperboard, plastic and foam — aluminum is the easiest for recycling plants to recycle, while foam is the most difficult.