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DSNY: Foam Ban for Businesses Begins

The law covers foam food containers, cups, trays, plates, bowls and packing peanuts.

Starting January 1, 2019, New York City stores and foodservice businesses can no longer offer, sell or possess single-use foam food containers, such as foam takeout clamshells, cups, plates, bowls and trays. Additionally, manufacturers and stores may no longer sell or offer for sale loose fill packaging (packing peanuts) in the city.

This law was enacted because single-use foam items were found to be not recyclable. These items are collected as trash in the city. There are many recyclable alternative packaging options including paper, plastic, aluminum and compostable products.

“Foam cannot be recycled, plain and simple,” said City of New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in a statement. “It’s a problematic material when it’s in our waste stream. Foam is a source of neighborhood litter, and it is hazardous to marine life. It’s a lightweight material that clogs storm drains and can also end up on our beaches and in our waterways. It’s even a contaminant in our recycling and organics programs. I’m thankful we are finally able to move forward with our ban, and I look forward to seeing less foam in our waste stream.”

Though the ban is in effect, there will be a six-month grace period before fines will be imposed. DSNY and other city agencies have worked to conduct outreach and educate affected business throughout the five boroughs.

Small businesses with less than $500,000 in gross income for the most recent tax year and nonprofits may apply for hardship exemptions from the Department of Small Business Services if they can prove that the purchase of alternative products not composed of expanded polystyrene (EPS) would create a financial hardship.

Who is Covered

  • For-profit or not-for-profit foodservice establishments, mobile food commissaries and stores that sell or use foam items.
  • Manufacturers and distributors of polystyrene foam packaging that are located or operate within any of the five boroughs of New York City.

What is Covered

  • Single-service foam items including cups, bowls, plates, takeout containers and trays.
  • Foam loose fill packaging, commonly known as “packing peanuts.”

What is Not Covered

  • Foam containers used for prepackaged food that have been filled and sealed prior to receipt by the foodservice establishment, mobile food commissary or store.
  • Foam containers used to store raw meat, pork, fish, seafood or poultry sold from a butcher case or similar appliance.
  • Foam blocks used as protective packaging in shipping.
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