Stopping litter at the source

Ditch single-use plastics, protect Lake Tahoe

Since 2013, the League to Save Lake Tahoe has conducted litter cleanups around the Tahoe Basin – more than 1,400 of them. Together, League volunteers, staff and partners have removed over 95,000 pounds of litter from the Tahoe environment as of December 2023.

Along with trash, our family of Tahoe Blue-Gooders also gather data on the items they find, which reveal key insights, including what kind of things most often become litter. Armed with this information, our team of policy experts applies science to find solutions. Using this “science to solutions” approach, we have successfully pushed for policies that prevent litter at its source, banning items like plastic bags, Styrofoam, and single-use plastic water bottles, and limiting plastic utensils and straws.

Now, we’re going further. Together with community members, volunteers and partners, we’re reaching out in areas around the Tahoe Basin to ask others to help us prevent litter at its source.

If you own or manage a Tahoe business, you can make a difference. Use the downloadable resources found below to stop the flow of litter into the Basin. By making simple, cost-effective changes to your supply orders and customer service, you can prevent litter from harming Lake Tahoe. Your customers will thank you for doing your part to Keep Tahoe Blue.

We created this video to spread awareness about the impacts of single-use food waste on Tahoe’s environment. Our message: refuse single-use food service items, and bring your own reusables instead.

Resources

Local and statewide ordinances

There are litter prevention policies already on the books. The League's "science to solutions" approach has contributed to most of these wins.
  • City of South Lake Tahoe

    In 2015, City Council passed 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 In 2021, the Council repealed its single-use plastic bag regulations to instead follow state law adopted in 2016, which is applicable to more types of establishments. (See “California” for details.)

    In 2018, the City passed an ordinance banning businesses from selling or providing polystyrene (A.K.A. Styrofoam) and only allowing single-use foodware to be provided upon request. Single-use plastic foodware items include 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 were added to the list above, and may be provided to customers only upon request.

    On October 22, 2022, the South Lake Tahoe City Council updated the City’s plastic waste ordinance to minimize the potential for single-use plastic water bottles from entering our waste stream and from contributing to the climate crisis. In 2023, the ordinance applied to the City and to City-owned and permitted locations and activities. On April 24, 2024, the ordinance will prohibit retail sale or distribution of any single-use plastic bottled water under one gallon. Bottled water is considered any product that contains water as the sole ingredient. While non-plastic alternatives do not violate the ordinance, the City encourages refilling with Tahoe Tap instead of promoting single-use alternatives.

    The League used its litter data to successfully push for each of these local litter prevention policies.

  • Town of Truckee

    The Town of Truckee voted to ban single-use, plastic carryout bags in November 2013. The ordinance went into effect on June 1, 2014, outpacing the California statewide ban that came two years later.

    In April of 2023, another local ordinance banned businesses from providing or selling expanded polystyrene items, also known as Styrofoam. The same ordinance also required businesses to charge customers a $0.25 fee on single-use cups and containers to disincentivize their use.

    On January 23, 2024, the Town adopted the Single-Use Plastic Bottle and Paper Carton Ordinance. The ordinance prohibits the commercial sale and distribution of non-sparkling, unflavored water in single-use plastic containers and paper cartons under a gallon in size. The ordinance will take effect on April 22, 2025 (Earth Day).

  • California

    In 2016, California adopted a single-use carryout bag ban (SB 270). Customers cannot receive free single-use plastic carryout bags from grocery stores, retail stores with a pharmacy, and convenience stores/food marts/liquor stores. Instead, these stores may sell reusable plastic bags made with recycled content or recycled paper bags, and must charge at least 10 cents per bag.

    In 2018, California passed a law (AB 1884) prohibiting full-service restaurants from providing a single-use plastic straw to a customer unless requested. In 2021, AB 1276 added a prohibition on restaurants and third-party food delivery platforms (e.g. Door Dash) from providing specific single-use foodware accessories and condiments unless requested by the customer: utensils, chopsticks, condiment cups and packets, straws, stirrers, splash sticks, and cocktail sticks; condiments packets include single-use packets of ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, salsa, soy sauce, sugar, and salt.

    In June 2022, SB 54 passed requiring all packaging in the state to be recyclable or compostable by 2032. In the case of expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam), that number needs to reach 25% by 2025 or else it will be banned. It is best to prepare by getting rid of polystyrene now.

  • Nevada

    Despite no legal requirements in Nevada, there are plenty of affordable, compliant and environmentally friendly alternatives out there. Please use the downloadable resources above to help you with best practices and to find alternatives to plastics.

Thanks to our partners

City of South Lake Tahoe

UC Davis TERC

Ditch Plastics

Single-use plastics are one of the most common types of litter found in Tahoe