Green To Go Packaging Initiative

Join in creating a more sustainable Saint Paul for all

The City of Saint Paul is rolling out its Green To Go food and beverage packaging initiative. 

Ordinance Took Effect in 2022

The City of Saint Paul’s Green To Go food and beverage packaging ordinance took effect on January 1, 2022. The local ordinance requires to-go food and beverages to be packaged in environmentally friendly containers that can be composted, recycled or returned/reused. To-go food and beverages means they're packaged onsite and can be consumed without additional preparation. The ordinance does not cover foods prepackaged by a manufacturer, producer, or distributor.  

The initiative seeks to: 

  • Decrease the volume of landfill waste
  • Minimize toxic byproducts of incineration
  • Make the waste stream less damaging to the environment 
  • Reduce the economic and environmental costs of waste management 
  • Create a more environmental city

Packaging includes containers used to transport foods or beverages for immediate consumption such as serving trays, plates, containers, boxes, and cans. It does not include bags. 

The full text of the City's "Plastic Packaging" ordinance is found in Chapter 236


Food and beverages that are prepared for immediate consumption and are meant to be carried out must be contained in packaging that is:

  • Compostable— these are packaging materials that are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) or others approved by the City;
  • Recyclable— packaging materials that can be recycled in alignment with the City’s residential recycling contracts; a list of acceptable materials can be found on the Public Works Accepted Materials page; or 
  • Returnable/reusable— containers such as bottles, milk containers, growlers that can be returned to the distributor and used again. 
  • Packaging used at hospitals and nursing homes is exempt. 

Businesses may request an exemption to using the packaging types listed here when the packaging that a business currently has available does not meet any of these requirements or is cost prohibitive. Exemptions may be requested by providing the following information to the Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) for review: 

  • specifics about the food and/or beverage to be packaged;
  • documentation of the costs of existing packaging that does not meet City requirements; and
  • documentation of the costs of packaging that does meet City requirements.

All individuals, businesses or events that are serving or giving away food prepared for immediate consumption must follow the to-go packaging requirements. This includes restaurants, delicatessens, food trucks or other mobile vendors, as well as seasonal or temporary food vendors. Packaging used at hospitals and nursing homes is exempt. Businesses must have their own systems in place for proper composting or recycling of items. 

Resources and Education

DSI is responsible for educating the public about the Green To Go initiative, and implementing the ordinance. The City and its partners will offer opportunities for businesses to learn about packaging alternatives and technical assistance. 

Our partners include the City of Saint Paul Public Works' Recycling and Solid Waste Services, Ramsey/Washington County Recycling & Energy


This Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy program assists businesses in implementing organics recycling (food scraps and compostable packaging), waste reduction, and recycling efforts. Provides technical assistance and grants as well. Visit the BizRecycling website to learn more.

Food Packaging Resource Fairs

In partnership with business organizations, the City will offer packaging resource fairs for businesses to learn about packaging that meets ordinance requirements. Vendors will display their packaging alternatives. Dates to be announced.


Businesses that comply with the ordinance will receive a small window cling to show they’re part of ensuring a sustainable Saint Paul for future generations.

Organics (food scraps and compostable packaging) recycling for residents

Residents and businesses can now drop off food scraps and compostable packaging at sites in Saint Paul. Please note: compostable packaging cannot be recycled.

In 2023, Ramsey County will roll out a pick-up program for residential food scraps/organics recycling.

Download this information

Business owners who want to distribute this information can download the Green To Go flyer below. The flyer is available in English, Hmong, Somali and Spanish.

Last Edited: May 17, 2022