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Polystyrene Foam Ban

Expanded Polystyrene Foam Container and Polystyrene Loose Fill Packaging Ban

In 2020, New York State adopted the nation's strongest statewide ban of expanded polystyrene, single-use foam food containers, and polystyrene packaging materials known as packing peanuts.

Polystyrene is a concern for the environment, as well as human health and safety. It is difficult to recycle and one of the top 10 contributors of environmental litter, causing negative impacts to wildlife, waterways, and other natural resources, as well as littering communities and natural areas. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Toxicology Program has listed styrene, a chemical found in expanded polystyrene foam, as a reasonably anticipated human carcinogen that can be transferred from expanded polystyrene foam containers into food and beverages that people consume. To protect people and the environment, certain expanded polystyrene foam products will be banned in New York.

Effective Date

January 1, 2022.

Foam Ban

Under the Expanded Polystyrene Foam Container and Polystyrene Loose Fill Packaging Ban, (link leaves DEC's website) effective January 1, 2022, 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. In addition, no manufacturer or store will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute polystyrene loose fill packaging (commonly referred to as packing peanuts) in the state.

Covered Food Service Providers

A covered food service provider is any person engaged in the business of selling or distributing prepared food or beverages for on-premises or off-premises consumption.

Examples of covered food service providers include:

  • Food service establishments, caterers, temporary food service establishments, mobile food service establishments and pushcarts as defined in the New York State Sanitary Code; (link leaves DEC's website)

  • Retail food stores as defined in article 28 of the Agriculture and Markets Law; (link leaves DEC's website)

  • Delis;

  • Grocery stores;

  • Restaurants;

  • Cafeterias;

  • Coffee shops;

  • Hospitals, adult care facilities, and nursing homes; and

  • Elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities.

Containers and Packaging Affected Under the Ban

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 (commonly referred to as packing peanuts) will also be banned under the law.

Exemptions

This law does NOT apply to:

  • 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 (e.g., clear plastic containers marked with a #6 resin identifier);

  • A city with a population of one million or more which has a local polystyrene ban in place, including New York City; 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.

Please e-mail foamban@dec.ny.gov with questions about how the statewide ban may affect local laws, ordinances, and regulations or for information about filing a written declaration with DEC.

Hardship Waiver

Food service providers that meet certain criteria and facilities operated by a not-for-profit corporation or by a federal, state, or local government agency that provide food and meals to food insecure individuals may apply for a renewable 12-month hardship waiver (link leaves DEC's website) of these requirements from DEC. Hardship waivers may be granted for one or more disposable food service containers to a covered food service provider that demonstrates there is no alternative product of comparable cost that is not composed of expanded polystyrene foam and that the purchase or use of an alternative product would create an undue financial hardship.

Examples of facilities operated by a not-for-profit corporation or by a federal, state, or local government agency that provide food and meals to food insecure individuals and may apply for a hardship waiver include:

  • Soup kitchens and community meal programs;

  • Food pantries; and

  • Places of worship.

Food service providers that may also apply for a hardship waiver must meet the following criteria:

  • Have an annual gross income under $500,000 per location;

  • Do not operate 10 or more locations in New York State; and

  • Are not operated according to a franchise agreement.

Please check back to this webpage or sign up with the link below to receive updates regarding the hardship waiver application procedure.

Regulations

DEC is authorized to promulgate rules and regulations as necessary to implement the provisions of the new law. If regulations are developed, draft regulations will be available for public comment.

Please check back to this webpage or sign up with the link below to receive updates regarding regulations.

Anticipated Implementation Timeline

Please check back to this page in the coming months for the anticipated implementation timeline.

Resources

Please check back to this page in the coming months for additional helpful resources.

Questions?

More information will be available on this page in the coming months. Please contact foamban@dec.ny.gov for immediate questions.

Stay Up To Date

To get the latest information, sign up to receive Expanded Polystyrene Foam Container and Loose Fill Packaging Ban information. When you sign up, you can expect to receive information on the following (depending on your interest):

  • Upcoming stakeholder meetings;

  • Proposed and published regulations;

  • Guidance and educational material; and

  • Instructions for submitting a waiver.