DEC proposes regulations to enact ban on foam containers in New York State

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A styrofoam take-out container is viewed in a trash can in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has proposed regulations to implement the ban on expanded polystyrene foam containers and loose fill packaging or “packing peanuts” in New York State. The ban would go into effect on January 1, 2022.

The ban was originally proposed in 2020 and several counties in New York have already adopted it. These include Albany, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties. The DEC has now fully released the regulations to fully enact the ban.

“New York’s proposed regulations to implement a ban on polystyrene foam containers and packing material will reduce the waste headed to landfills and combustors,”said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The ban creates enormous long-term benefits for the environment by helping to reduce litter, clean up the recycling stream, prevent macro/microplastic pollution, and bolster the ongoing transition to more sustainable alternatives.”

The proposed regulations prohibit businesses from selling, offering for sale, or distributing disposable food service containers that contain expanded polystyrene foam in New York. Also, no manufacturer or store will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute polystyrene loose fill packaging.

Disposable food service containers made of foam that will be banned under the proposed regulations include bowls, cartons, clamshell containers, cups, lids, plates, trays, or any other product designed for single use.

Places required to comply with the ban include:

  • Food service establishments, caterers, temporary food service establishments, mobile food service establishments, and pushcarts
  • Retail food stores
  • Delis, grocery stores, restaurants, cafeterias, and coffee shops
  • Hospitals, adult care facilities, and nursing homes
  • Elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities

Under the law, certain facilities and food service providers may request a financial hardship waiver, which may apply to one or more disposable food containers.

The DEC says the law and proposed regulations include exemptions for raw meat, pork, seafood, poultry, or fish sold for the purpose of cooking or preparing by the customer and prepackaged food filled or sealed prior to sale. Other local laws enacting a foam ban are preempted by the state law.

The ban is in line with New York’s reducing waste measures such as the ban on plastic carryout bags, the bottle bill, and food scrap recycling and food waste prevention efforts.

The DEC will be holding a virtual public hearing on the proposed regulations on November 15, at 1 p.m. and are accepting comments until Nov. 22, 2021.

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