New York ban on polystyrene foam containers, loose-fill packaging starts Jan. 1, 2022

by PDM STAFF

| Photo by Taklamacuwv Lamia via Wikimedia Commons

NEW YORK – The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reminds the public that the statewide ban on polystyrene foam containers and loose-fill packaging is in effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

“Nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers already live in communities that are ‘foam free,’” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “New York City and Long Island are seeing the benefits of their foam bans with reduced litter on their landscapes and waterways. Now the rest of the State is poised to reap the benefits of a cleaner environment. DEC continues to focus on outreach to educate affected entities, but we know the foam ban will work and we look forward to less waste in our landfills in 2022.”

New York’s statewide ban on polystyrene foam containers and loose-fill packaging is among the first in the nation. In a press release, DEC said their office and their partners continue outreach efforts to advise affected entities about the ban, particularly sellers and distributors of disposable foodservice containers, such as retail food stores, restaurants, hospitals, and schools.

Starting Jan. 1, New York’s ban prohibits any person engaged in the business of selling or distributing prepared food or beverages for on- or off-premises consumption from selling, offering for sale, or distributing disposable food service containers that contain expanded polystyrene foam in the state.

Disposable foodservice containers made of expanded polystyrene foam 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, including containers generally recognized as designed for single use. In addition, no manufacturer or store will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute polystyrene loose fill packaging in the state. Initially, DEC said, it will focus its efforts to achieve compliance with outreach and education to ensure a smooth transition for affected stakeholders, with enforcement to follow as needed.

According to DEC, expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam contributes to environmental litter, causing negative impacts to wildlife, waterways, and natural resources. EPS foam is lightweight, breaks apart easily, and does not readily biodegrade, rendering it persistent in the environment and susceptible to microplastic pollution. In addition, EPS foam containers and loose-fill packaging are not accepted by most recycling programs in New York State because the foam is difficult to recycle, easily contaminates the recycling stream, is often soiled, and has low value.

Although the ban begins Jan. 1, DEC said it would release final regulations to implement the law in the coming months to assist stakeholders with complying with the law. Draft regulations were released earlier this year. The public may visit the DEC website to learn more.

Examples of covered food service providers required to comply with the ban include:

  • Foodservice establishments, caterers, temporary food service establishments, mobile food service establishments, and pushcarts as defined in the New York State Sanitary Code;
  • Retail food stores, as defined in Article 28 of the Agriculture and Markets Law, which include any establishment where food and food products are offered to the consumer and intended for off-premises consumption;
  • Delis, grocery stores, restaurants, cafeterias, and coffee shops;
  • Hospitals, adult care facilities, and nursing homes; and
  • Elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities.

Under the law, any facility, regardless of income, operated by a not-for-profit corporation or by a federal, state, or local government agency that provides food and meals to feed insecure individuals at no or nominal charge may request a financial hardship waiver of the requirements of the law. Examples include community meal programs, food pantries, and places of worship. For more information, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/120762.html. — With Jay Domingo/PDM

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