Plastic Reduction Regulations Begin

The City of Goleta’s new Plastic Free Goleta comprehensive plastic pollution reduction regulations are now in effect. Are you in compliance? The ordinance was adopted by the City Council on September 6, 2022, but time was given to allow businesses, residents, and visitors to prepare for the new requirements. Based on coastal cleanup data and best practices, the policy is among the most comprehensive on the central coast, making Goleta a leader in plastic waste reduction. The ordinance includes regulations on the following:

  • Reusable foodware is required for all on-premises dining. Did you know that after only two washes stainless steel cutlery breaks even with disposable cutlery for environmental impacts? After that, every use increases the environmental benefits and reduces the costs of use for a business. Not only does switching to reusable foodware decrease waste, it’s also an investment for businesses that reduces pollution generated by the production of single-use foodware.

  • Single-use cutlery and straws distributed in the City cannot be plastic. While reusable foodware is the best choice, single-use cutlery and straws made from natural fibers like paper, bamboo, wood, and edibles like sugar cane and pasta, have a much smaller impact on their environment than plastic. Natural fibers can break down if they get into the environment as litter, unlike plastic.

  • Polystyrene foodware products are prohibited for sale and distribution. This includes both expanded and rigid polystyrene (also known as Styrofoam©) egg cartons, meat and produce trays, cups, plates, and other foodware. Polystyrene packing materials and coolers are also banned. Goleta now joins over 130 jurisdictions in California that have regulations on polystyrene products due to the health and environmental hazards they pose to the environment. This material cannot be recycled and is lightweight enough to blow away even when disposed of properly. There are many alternatives to this material, and many are already prevalent in our community.

  • Balloons are also regulated under the City’s policies. Mylar or foil balloons cannot be distributed or sold within the City, and no balloons can be intentionally released within City limits. Mylar and latex balloons are a prevalent source of marine litter, and are often mistaken for food by marine life, causing harm and even death. Mylar balloons cause over 1,000 power outages a year when they collide with power lines. With graduation season upon us, make sure you’re celebrating responsibly with alternatives like bubbles, pinwheels, and reusable balloons.

To help with the transition to the new regulations, the City’s Sustainability Program released a Plastic Free Goleta guide in April, which is available on the City website in English and Spanish here. Sustainability staff are also available to provide presentations to community groups and help walk businesses through ways to comply with the new local environmental law.

What is the purpose of the new Plastic Free Goleta regulations?

The City’s plastic reduction regulations are designed to reduce the prevalence of single-use plastics and polystyrene pollution in Goleta. After all, protecting the environment is one of Goleta’s core values. Walking along the beach, you’ve probably encountered bits of Styrofoam© in the sand, plastic balloon strings entangling kelp, and plastic straws littering our environment. Following community input and informed by coastal and neighborhood cleanup data, the Goleta City Council took policy action to reduce single-use plastics, polystyrene, and balloons from polluting our environment.

“Plastic Free Goleta” regulations are part of the City’s efforts to reduce waste by prohibiting the distribution and use of a variety of common single-use plastic items. It is estimated that there are over five trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean and that by 2050 plastic will outweigh fish in the ocean. Less single-use plastics being distributed and sold in our community will reduce plastic pollution litter in Goleta’s neighborhoods, waterways, and beaches.

We encourage the Goleta community to join us in going plastic free! To learn more about Goleta’s plastics initiatives, and to read the full ordinance, please visit To inquire about extension eligibility, please email using the subject line “Plastic Compliance.”