First plastic bags, now Styrofoam

The environment. The new year will bring new ban on Styrofoam container use.

| 23 Nov 2021 | 11:16

People have said good-bye to plastic bags, and next up will be Styrofoam containers.

Effective Jan. 1, New York State’s new law banning the use of expanded polystyrene, single-use foam food and beverage containers and polystyrene loose fill packaging materials (packing peanuts) goes into effect.

Microplastic pollution

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, foam packaging is one of the top contributors of environmental litter, causing negative impacts to wildlife, waterways, and other natural resources, as well as littering our communities and natural areas.

Styrofoam, the DEC said, is lightweight, breaks apart easily, and does not readily biodegrade. When polystyrene foam ends up as litter in the environment, it can persist for a long time and may also become microplastic pollution.

The DEC also said foam containers and loose fill packaging, such as packing peanuts, are not accepted in most recycling programs in New York State because the foam is difficult to recycle and has a low value.

The new ban, said the DEC will “protect the environment, our communities, and to support sustainable materials management.”

Under ban, no covered food service provider or store (retail or wholesale) will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute disposable food service containers that contain expanded polystyrene foam in New York according to the DEC. In addition, no manufacturer or store will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute polystyrene packing peanuts in the state.

Impact wide and far

A covered food service provider is considered to be any person engaged in the business of selling or distributing prepared food or beverages for on-premises or off-premises consumption. The DEC said this includes food service establishments, caterers, delis, grocery stores restaurants, cafeterias, coffee shops, hospitals, elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, temporary food service establishments, mobile food service establishments and pushcarts.

Additionally, no retail or wholesale store will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute disposable food service containers or loose fill packaging that contains expanded polystyrene foam, in New York state. This includes any non-food retail or wholesale establishment.

Also, no person, firm, or corporation that produces or imports expanded polystyrene loose fill packaging will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute expanded polystyrene loose fill packaging in New York state.

The DEC said disposable food service containers made of expanded polystyrene that will be banned under the law include bowls, cartons, hinged “clamshell” containers, cups, lids, plates, trays, or any other product designed or used to temporarily store or transport prepared foods or beverages, and includes any container generally recognized as designed for single use. Polystyrene loose fill packaging will also be banned under the law.


However, according to the DEC, the law excludes:

· Raw meat, pork, seafood, poultry or fish sold for the purpose of cooking or preparing off-premises by the customer;

· Prepackaged food filled or sealed prior to receipt at a covered food service provider;

· Food service containers made from rigid polystyrene resin that has not been expanded, extruded or foamed.

· A city with a population of one million or more which has a local polystyrene ban in place and

· Any county that enacts a polystyrene ban by local law, ordinance, or regulation that provides environmental protection equal to or greater than the state law and the county files a written declaration with DEC. All other local laws are preempted by state law.

Also, financial hardship waiver

Any facility, regardless of its income, operated by a not-for-profit corporation or by a federal, state, or local government agency that provides food and meals to food insecure individuals at no or nominal charge, may request a financial hardship waiver of the requirements of the law.