As of January 1st, 2019 businesses can no longer sell, purchase, or distribute items made of expanded polystyrene (EPS), commonly known as Styrofoam. This includes EPS take-out containers, cups, plates, bowls, trays, and loose-fill packing material.
Expanded polystyrene never decomposes and is not recyclable. It is a prime contributor to the 20,000 tons of waste produced per day in NYC. EPS overloads landfills and emits toxic fumes when burned in incinerators. Littered EPS that is improperly disposed or falls out of trash bins and trucks enters water bodies and leaches toxins into oceans and groundwater, mars natural landscapes and communities, and is mistaken as food by animals. The Ocean Conservancy’s 2018 International Coastal Cleanup collected 580,570 foam take-out containers and over 2.3 million foam pieces from beaches across the world.
Affected Businesses: Any business or nonprofit that sells or uses EPS and is located or operates within the five boroughs of New York City.
Exemptions: Small businesses with less than $500,000 in gross income for the most recent tax year and non-profits may apply for hardship exemptions from the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) if they can prove that the purchase of alternative products not composed of EPS would create a financial hardship. SBS will begin accepting applications for hardship waivers in fall 2018. For more information, please visit nyc.gov/foamwaiver.
Recommendations: Switch out foam products for reusable alternatives such as ceramic or stainless-steel mugs and dishware. Encourage customers to bring their own thermoses and containers as well. For containers that must be single-use, opt for aluminum products with cardboard or plastic lids, or certified compostable containers, and provide adequate recycling and/or organics bins for disposal. Packing peanuts can be replaced with newspaper, shredded or scrap paper, or other forms of sustainable loose fill packaging.