NYSDEC proposes regulations to ban polystyrene foam containers and ‘packing peanuts'

New York City Poised To Ban Styrofoam Food Containers
Posted at 12:25 PM, Sep 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 12:26:11-04

NEW YORK (WKBW) — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced proposed regulations to ban polystyrene foam containers and loose fill packaging, which are commonly referred to as ‘packing peanuts."

The NYSDEC says the ban would go into place January 1, 2022 and the proposed regulations build on the state's efforts of preventing litter and reducing waste through measures such as:

  • Ban on plastic carryout bags
  • Bottle bill
  • Food scrap recycling and food waste prevention efforts

According to a release, foam containers and packing peanuts are not accepted by most recycling programs in New York State.

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. 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. I encourage New Yorkers to review the draft regulations and provide comments as we work to remove these single-use plastic products from our waste stream to protect the environment, both now and into the future.
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos

The NYSDEC is accepting comments on the proposed regulations until November 22, 2021.

"The law and proposed regulations prohibit any person engaged in the business of selling or distributing prepared food or beverages for on- or off-premises consumption from selling, offering for sale, or distributing disposable food service containers that contain expanded polystyrene foam in New York. In addition, no manufacturer or store will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute polystyrene loose fill packaging in the state," according to a release.

Those who would be required to comply with the ban include:

  • Food service establishments, caterers, temporary food service establishments, mobile food service establishments, and pushcarts as defined in the New York State Sanitary Code;
  • Retail food stores, as defined in Article 28 of the Agriculture and Markets Law, which include any establishment where food and food products are offered to the consumer and intended for off-premises consumption;
  • Delis, grocery stores, restaurants, cafeterias, and coffee shops;
  • Hospitals, adult care facilities, and nursing homes; and
  • Elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities.

The food service containers that would be banned include:

  • Bowls
  • Cartons
  • Hinged "clamshell" containers
  • Cups
  • Lids
  • Plates
  • Trays
  • Any other product designed or used to temporarily store or transport prepared foods or beverages, including containers generally recognized as designed for single use.

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

The law and proposed regulations also provide exemptions for the following:

  • Raw meat, pork, seafood, poultry, or fish sold for the purpose of cooking or preparing off-site by the customer
  • Prepackaged food filled or sealed prior to receipt at a covered food service provider

The law would not apply in New York City due to a local polystyrene ban already in place that meets the law’s population threshold.

"Other local laws enacting a polystyrene ban are preempted by the state law, except any county law enacting a polystyrene ban providing environmental protection equal to or greater than the state law or regulations will not be preempted if the county files a written declaration with DEC of its intent to administer and enforce its local law," a release says.

You can find the full proposed regulations here. A virtual public hearing on the proposed regulations will be held on November 15 at 1:00 p.m.

Written comments can be submitted from September 8 through November 22 and can be submitted by email to foamban@dec.ny.gov or by mail to: BWRR-Part 353, NYSDEC, Division of Materials Management, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7253, include “Comments on Proposed Part 353” in the subject line of the email.