As of January 1, the state of New York now prohibits any person engaged in the business of selling or distributing prepared food or beverages from selling, offering for sale, or distributing disposable food service containers that contain expanded polystyrene foam in the state. In addition, no manufacturer will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute polystyrene loose fill packaging in the state.
In other words, there will be no more Styrofoam bowls, cartons, clamshell containers, lids, plates, trays, or packing peanuts.
There are still some exceptions. Raw meat, seafood, poultry, or fish sold for the purpose of cooking or preparing off-premises can still be packaged in polystyrene foam. Prepackaged food filled or sealed prior to receipt by a food service provider can also still be packaged in polystyrene foam.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is initially focusing its efforts on outreach and education to achieve compliance rather than on enforcement. The DEC has provided detailed regulations to assist stakeholders with complying with the law.
Expanded polystyrene foam is a major contributor to environmental litter. The material breaks apart easily and does not readily biodegrade, causing it to be persistent in the environment and contribute to microplastic pollution. The foam causes negative impacts to wildlife, waterways, and natural resources.
An estimated 65% of New Yorkers were already living in communities that banned polystyrene foam, notably including New York City and Long Island which imposed a ban in 2019.
New York becomes the fourth state to impose such a ban after Maine, Maryland, and Vermont. Colorado and Virginia will follow suit in the next two years.
Expanded Polystyrene Foam Container and Polystyrene Loose Fill Packaging Ban
Photo, posted November 16, 2015, courtesy of Karim Ghantous via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.