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Enforcement of NYC Foam Ban Begins

DSNY will officially begin fining businesses using single-use foam items as warning period ends.

The City of New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) began enforcing its foam ban law on July 1—the end of its six-month warning period.

“Foam cannot be recycled, plain and simple,” said Acting Sanitation Commissioner Steven Costas in a statement. “When foam enters our waste stream, it becomes a source of neighborhood litter and can end up on our beaches and in our waterways. It’s hazardous to marine life and can clog storm drains. It’s even a contaminant in our recycling and organics programs. Over the past six months, we’ve worked to educate businesses of the new law, and many businesses have already made the change to recyclable products.”

The foam ban, which officially took effect January 1, prohibits New York City stores and foodservice businesses from offering, selling or possessing single-use expanded polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, food containers such as takeout clamshells, cups, plates, bowls, coolers and trays. Additionally, manufacturers and stores may no longer sell or offer for sale loose fill packaging, typically known as “packing peanuts,” in the city.

Single-use foam items are not recyclable and are instead collected as trash in the city. The ban encourages businesses to use one of many alternative packaging options, including compostable products, or recyclable paper, plastic and aluminum.

“Reducing our waste is vital to the health of our planet and our city. Single-use foam has littered our streets, sidewalks and parks or ended up in our landfills for too long,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson in a statement. “I am thrilled that we are taking steps to remove materials that cannot be recycled from our waste stream.”

Over the past six months, DSNY and other city agencies have worked to educate affected business throughout the five boroughs. Outreach activities have included:

  • Sending mailers to nearly 130,000 commercial addresses.
  • Sending email blasts to elected officials, BIDs, merchant associations, chambers of commerce, industry groups and corporate contacts and distributors and contacts tied to mobile commissaries.
  • Running ongoing social media campaigns, including #FoamBanNYC and #FoamFreeNYC.
  • Conducting surveys on foam during recycling and organics outreach site visits and distributed foam notices at events.
  • Releasing taxi cab video announcing foam ban in effect.
  • Sending nearly 30,000 foam ban enforcement warning cards.

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 Banned

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

What is Not Banned

  • 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.

Nonprofits and small businesses with less than $500,000 in gross income for the most recent tax year 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 would create a financial hardship.

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