When does the ban on foam takeout containers go into effect in Washington state?

Under a Washington law approved in 2021, the sale and distribution of single-use foam containers used for coffee and takeout will soon be banned. 

Starting June 1, everything from clamshell takeout containers to coffee cups to trays and other food and drink carriers will be outlawed, so long as those items are made from expanded polystyrene (EPS).

EPS foam is "a lightweight cellular plastic material consisting of small hollow spherical balls that are expanded and processed through a variety of techniques," according to the Washington State Department of Ecology. These materials are extremely brittle and break easily into tiny pieces.

EPS materials are difficult to recycle, and it’s expensive, according to the Department of Ecology. They aren’t accepted in most of Washington’s residential recycling programs and are treated instead as a contaminant. Because they are not readily recyclable, the materials end up in landfills, waste-to-energy facilities, or the environment.

This ban applies to any person, firm, association, partnership, corporation, government entity, organization, or joint venture that sells or distributes the EPS products covered by this ban.

According to the Department of Ecology, businesses can't use up existing inventory after the ban's date. 

However, the ban does not encompass packaging for raw, uncooked or butchered meat, fish, poultry or seafood. Cartons for vegetables, fruits or egg cartons are also exempt, according to the law. 

The ban on EPS started rolling out in June 2023 with the ban of packing peanuts and other loose-fill packaging items. 

The Department of Ecology said it will respond to non-compliant businesses, institutions, manufacturers, and distributors with education, resources, and technical assistance. 

Repeated and continuous non-compliance from businesses or manufacturers could result in up to a $250 fine.

The Washington Department of Ecology posted a guide for businesses and manufacturers for alternatives to use for single-use ESP foam. 


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