Skip to main content

Reusable Foodware is Safe

Reusable foodware is safe, allowed, and encouraged! Learn more in this reusable foodware safety guide, download here.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a steep increase in the use of disposable foodware. The Alameda County Department of Environmental Health, consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allows the use of reusable foodware when properly washed, rinsed, and sanitized. StopWaste encourages the use of reusables wherever possible to reduce cost, waste, litter, and improve diner experience.


Providing Reusables for On-site Dining is Allowed

  • For both indoor or outdoor dining, reusable dishes, cups, and utensils are safe for workers and customers as long as they're properly washed, rinsed, and sanitized. 
  • Items shared between customers such as menus, bread baskets and condiment bottles must be disinfected between parties to effectively deactivate the virus.

Customer-Provided Reusables are Encouraged

  • Reusable mugs, utensils, containers, and bags from customers are safe and allowed by health code.

Reduce Waste from Take-out Service

  • Provide single-use food service accessories such as bags, utensils, napkins, stirrers, condiment packets, and straws by request only.
  • Encourage customers to hand carry to-go orders without a bag or to use their own reusable bags. Remember that the Reusable Bag Ordinance for Alameda County 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.
  • If you work with third party vendors to fill online orders, be sure to honor opt-out requests by customers.
  • 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 Ben Duggan at

Related Resources

  • reusables safe

    Food businesses can find tips for safely using reusable food ware in this Covid-19 Update, which was developed by StopWaste in consultation with the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health.

    Read More
  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state temporarily prohibited self-service which led to all food share table programs around the state being paused. Given the very low risk of transmission from surfaces and shared objects, self-service food bars and food share tables are now allowed by the California Department of Education and the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health.

    Read More