Plastic Waste

Plastics, including Polystyrene, damage Lake Tahoe’s sensitive natural habitats and scenic beauty. These materials are not biodegradable, nearly impossible to recycle, and persist for many years in the environment by disintegrating into smaller plastic particles. In October, 2022, the City Council responded to these challenges by updating its ordinance in order to minimize the potential for this waste entering our local ecosystem. 

WHAT TO KNOW for Restaurants and other Food Providers

Single-use plastic containers and related foodservice ware items may be provided to customers only upon request:

Since 2018, single-use plastic foodservice ware items that may only be provided upon request are: cups, bowls, plates, trays, cartons, clamshell containers, cup lids, utensils (forks, knives, spoons, and sporks), chopsticks, straws, and stirrers.

As of Jan. 1, 2023, plastic condiment cups and packets are also included and may be provided to customers only upon request.

Food may not be served or provided in polystyrene containers.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2023, there are no more exceptions for polystyrene raw meat, fish, and food trays or for food prepared or packaged outside of South Lake Tahoe in polystyrene containers.

WHAT TO KNOW for Grocery Stores and other Retailers

Sale of polystyrene products is prohibited, except for products wholly encased in durable material, such as surfboards and life preservers.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2023, there are no more exceptions for polystyrene raw meat, fish, and food trays or for food prepared or packaged outside of South Lake Tahoe in polystyrene containers.

 The City has partnered with the League to Save Lake Tahoe in performing direct outreach to businesses to inform them of the updated ordinance. Outreach will begin in fall 2022 and continue in 2023. Email us at publicrelations@cityofslt.us with questions.

Full text of the Ordinance Amending Chapter 4.175 (Polystyrene and Plastic Food Packaging Regulations) of the South Lake Tahoe City Code to Establish Municipal Use and Commercial Ban on Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES

The amendment to the ordinance mentioned above included a ban on single-use plastic water bottles of less than one gallon from being sold within city limits, with an exemption for emergencies.

--This part of the ban goes into effect for city facilities and city-affiliated events, city concessionaires, lessees, licensees, and permittees on April 22, 2023.

--This part of the ban goes into effect for all commercial vendors within city limits on April 22, 2024.

See resources available from the Drink Tahoe Tap campaign and the Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

For more information about the Plastic Water Bottle Ban, please reach out to sletton@cityofslt.us.

The full text of the ordinance can be found here: Polystyrene and Plastic Food Packaging Ordinance

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WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT PLASTIC BAGS

In 2015, City Council passed a resolution establishing an ordinance banning plastic single-use carryout bags. In 2021, the Council repealed its single-use plastic bag regulations to instead follow state law adopted in 2016, which is applicable to more types of establishments (Public Resources Code 42280-42288). This law prohibits most grocery stores, large retail stores with a pharmacy, and convenience stores that sell food and alcoholic beverages from providing their customers with bags designed for a single use only, unless those bags are made with recycled paper. These stores may provide customers with certified reusable grocery bags and must charge at least 10 cents for each reusable plastic or recycled paper bag.