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What You Need To Know About Styrofoam and Plastic Bans in America

styrofoam ban

Many cities and states are cracking down on the use of Styrofoam and plastic containers or utensils in foodservice applications. Legislative acts controlling the use of these materials have been spreading along America’s coastlines and across the country. Because they impact any foodservice operation from food trucks to hospital cafeterias, it’s important you stay informed to avoid potential fines and costly fees.

If your business offers food to go, whether it’s in the form of take-out, delivery, or simply packing up a customer’s leftovers, chances are you’re familiar with Styrofoam. This widely used material is known for its durable, yet disposable properties which make it a staple amongst food trucks, delivery chains, caterers, and restaurants alike. Read on to learn why its convenience is being contested and if your city may be affected by recent bans.

What Is the Difference Between Styrofoam and Polystyrene?

Styrofoam is a trademarked name by the Dow Chemical Company to describe their closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam. It is often used interchangeably with expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam.

Polystyrene is a non-biodegradable hard plastic. Styrofoam and EPS foam are typically used in to-go applications including take-out containers, disposable utensils, and coffee cups.

Is Styrofoam Recyclable?

Yes. Polystyrene products are marked with a recyclable symbol featuring the number “6.” However, there are very few recycling centers across the country that accept and recycle Styrofoam.

Those that do accept this number 6 plastic typically need it to be cleaned and dried before being dropped off. Instead, the majority of America’s Styrofoam products are placed in landfills where the non-biodegradable material does not break down.

What States Have Banned Styrofoam Containers?

As of March 2018, Styrofoam has not been banned statewide anywhere in the United States. However, legislation banning Styrofoam has passed at the city level in the following areas. If you live in one of these states, contact your local government to find out if your city has been affected by these bans.

  • California
  • Florida
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Washington, D.C.

Styrofoam Alternatives

Biodegradable Foam Take Out Containers

If you live in an area currently affected by a Styrofoam ban, there are plenty of alternatives available to keep your take-out service running smoothly. Try any of these more environmentally friendly alternatives if you’re looking to comply with local regulations or get ahead of the curve in your city.

  • PET Plastic
  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic is flexible, lightweight and recyclable.

  • PLA Plastic
  • Polylactic acid (PLA) plastic is a biodegradable plastic.

  • Paper/Double Poly Coated Paper
  • Double poly-coated paper products are durable and moisture resistant.

  • Sugarcane/Bagasse
  • Sugarcane/bagasse is a biodegradable, compostable material designed with grease-resistant properties.

  • Post-Consumer Paperboard
  • This paperboard’s post-consumer makeup combines environmentally friendly properties with the durability of paperboard construction.

  • Reusable polypropylene containers
  • Polypropylene features a durable, synthetic resin construction perfect for multiple-use applications.

Plastic Straw Bans in America

Another ban, typically focused around coastal regions, is meant to eliminate or limit the use of plastic straws, stirrers, and, in some cases, utensils. Similar to the ban on EPS foam, those advocating for the ban argue that single-use plastic items have a negative environmental impact. Also similar to the ban on Styrofoam, those opposed argue that more expensive biodegradable products could have a negative effect on their business’s bottom line.

What Cities Have Banned the Use of Plastic Straws?

Similar to the ban on the use of EPS foam products in foodservice, the ban on plastic straws has only been made at the city level. If you live in one of the states below, check with your local government to find out if your city is affected.

  • California
  • Florida

Plastic Straw Alternatives

If your food truck, banquet hall, catering business, or cafe currently operates in any of the affected areas mentioned above, it’s important to consider a few cost-effective alternatives to single-serve plastic straws. Whether you’re complying with local regulations or making an environmentally friendly switch on your own, here are a few plastic straw alternatives you can try.


When it comes to operating your foodservice business, it’s important to stay on top of possible legislative action that may affect your operational costs. Styrofoam and plastic are both big parts of take-out and delivery services, so finding an environmentally friendly option that complies with regulations without compromising your bottom line is imperative.

Posted in: Eco-Friendly Tips | By Rachel Jenkins
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