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Reusable Food Ware During Covid-19

Reusable service ware is permitted by the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health if they are properly washed and sanitized. 

Click here for more information

Reopen with Reusables

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced food service businesses to rely on take-out and delivery service, resulting in a steep increase in disposable food service ware. This shift to single-use food service ware has added not only significant expenses for businesses but also burdens the environment.

As restrictions are starting to ease and indoor dining is phased back in, many food facilities are unsure about the safety of reusable dishware and food service accessories.

Reusables Are Safe

According to the CDC, Covid-19 is a respiratory illness transmitted though droplets in the air. To date, no cases have been reported where contact with surfaces was responsible for spreading the virus. In addition, standard cleaning procedures—such as washing reusable dishes in commercial dish washers and wiping down surfaces with disinfectant—effectively and quickly deactivate the virus.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “There is no credible evidence of food or food packaging associated with or as a likely source of transmission of Covid-19.” 

Best Practices

Use Reusables for On-site Dining

  • Per the rules issued by the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health, reusable customer items including utensils, food ware, breadbaskets, etc., are explicitly permitted if they are properly washed, rinsed and sanitized. Click here for more information.
  • Items shared between customers such as menus, bread baskets and condiment bottles must be disinfected between parties.
  • Does your business currently use disposable food service ware for on-site dining? Consider reusable alternatives with a mini-grant up to $500 and hands-on support offered by StopWaste. For details, case studies and to apply click here.


Allow Safe Use of Customer-Provided Reusables

  • Reusable bags, mugs, utensils, or other reusable items from customers are explicitly allowed under current guidance from local health departments as long as they will be touched only by the customer, not staff.
  • Offer contactless pours of beverages into customers’ reusable cups and mugs. Have designated trays for customers to place their containers and train staff to fill without touching.
  • Utensils, straws and containers for leftovers provided and handled by customers pose no risk when tables are disinfected after each use.


Minimize Waste from Take-out Service

  • Provide single-use food service accessories such as bags, utensils, napkins, stirrers, condiment packets, and straws by request only.
  • If you work with third party vendors to fill online orders, be sure to honor opt-out requests by customers.
  • Encourage customers to forgo disposable bags in favor of hand carrying items or using their own reusable bags. Remember that Alameda County’s reusable bag ordinance is in effect.
  • If disposable food service ware is your only option, select compostable items certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI). For additional guidance consult StopWaste’s Guide to Purchasing Compostable Food Service Ware.
  • StopWaste is working with food vendors in Alameda County to try out reusable service ware for takeout orders and delivery. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us