A new rule prohibiting the use of expanded polystyrene, single-use foam food and beverage containers or Styrofoam containers in New York State takes effect on January 1, 2022. Plastic bags have been phased out, and Styrofoam containers will be the next to go as part of the initiative.

Microplastic pollution

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has banned polystyrene foam packaging. Styrofoam is lightweight, breaks apart easily, and does not readily biodegrade. Polystyrene foam can persist for a long time in environment and may also cause micro plastic pollution. The new ban will “protect the environment, our communities, and to support sustainable materials management”.


Big impact

A covered food service provider is defined as anyone who sells or distributes prepared food or beverages for on-premises or off-premises consumption. 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 are all included.

No retail or wholesale store will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute expanded polystyrene containers or loose fill packaging in New York state. Disposable food service containers 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.


The ban 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.

· 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.


Any alternative may be used, as long as the alternative food/ beverage container or packaging product does not contain expanded polystyrene foam.

McDonald’s, for example, stopped using foam packaging in 2018. More than 80% of the chain’s packaging is now made from fiber-based materials. The remainder is made of plastic.

Last year, Dunkin’ completed the transition from foam to paper cups

Wegmans has already begun to reduce its use of foam. According to the chain, it is using more renewable and recycled content in its packaging. It is also attempting to improve the recyclability of its packaging.


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