Foam Ban Starts Jan. 1st “If you see a business using foam products, leave a tip or call (202) 645-6988.”

by Prince Of Petworth December 31, 2015 at 1:10 pm 32 Comments

Foam Info Sheet (PDF)

From a press release:

“December 30, 2015 – Starting January 1, 2016, District businesses and organizations that serve food will no longer be able to use containers or other food service products made of expanded polystyrene, commonly known as foam or Styrofoam™. Passed by the DC Council in June 2014, the ban will reduce trash pollution in the District’s waterways. Foam litter is consistently one of the most prevalent types of trash pollution in the Anacostia River.

“Foam is easily blown by wind or washed by rain into our storm drains and waterbodies,” said Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) Director Tommy Wells. “Over time, foam litter breaks into small pieces that are difficult to remove from the environment and are harmful when eaten by wildlife. Other pollutants like oil, grease, and heavy metals can adhere to these small pieces, causing the contaminants to bioaccumulate in the food chain. The foam ban is an important part of the District’s ongoing efforts to reduce litter in our communities and to restore our rivers and waterbodies.”

Another provision of the law requires businesses and organizations to only use recyclable or compostable disposable dining products by 2017, which will help the District achieve its Sustainable DC Plan goal of 80% waste diversion by 2032.

To ease the transition, DOEE has conducted an extensive outreach campaign to educate businesses and organizations about the requirements of the ban. Efforts include door-to-door canvassing across all eight wards, mailings to all regulated businesses, and a web page with information about the ban and a list of vendors that sell compliant products.”

From DDOE:

“The District’s foam ban starts January 1, 2016.
DOEE is conducting outreach to businesses before the ban takes effect.
If you see a business using foam products, leave a tip or call (202) 645-6988.

Requirements of the Law

Effective January 1, 2016, it is illegal for businesses and organizations that serve food to use food service products made of expanded polystyrene, commonly known as foam or StyrofoamTM.

The law applies to any food service products designed for one-time use. These include take-out containers, bowls, plates, trays, cups, and other items.

The law does not apply to:

Food or beverages filled and sealed in foam containers before an entity receives them (e.g., foam cartons of eggs packaged outside of the District)
Materials used to package raw, uncooked, or butchered meat, fish, poultry, or seafood
Foam food service products purchased for home use

Regulated Entities
Business or organizations that sell or provide food are subject to the requirements of the law. Examples of regulated entities include, but are not limited to, restaurants, carryouts, cafes, delis, grocery stores, bars, cafeterias, and food trucks. Other examples include companies that provide free coffee to clients, non-profit organizations that host a breakfast and provide food for attendees, and churches that offer coffee to parishioners after a service.”

  • Anonymous

    RAVE: This.

    Good job DC, it’s long overdue!

  • Ronald

    Wait wait wait — is the DDOE director the SAME Councilmartyr St. Tommy Wells?

    • sbc


  • Beth

    Doesn’t the House of Representatives still use foam in their cafeterias? Republicans made the switch when they took control of the House and I don’t know if they ever switched back.

    • Anonymous


    • west_egg

      Yes. They switched mainly to spite Democrats.

  • JoeOn3rd

    This is GREAT news!

  • emvee

    Way to go, DC!

  • textdoc

    Good news.
    Now we need a deposit system for glass bottles, aluminum cans, and (if possible) plastic bottles.

    • LittleBluePenguin

      I think we’d be making progress if we could get people to just stop dropping their glass bottles on the ground when they’re done with them, shattering it into tiny shards everywhere! It seems like every day I walk past some jackass who just purposefully smashes their used bottle on the ground as they’re out walking. A pox on litterers!

      • FridayGirl

        Completely agree with this.

      • textdoc

        LBP, that’s the main reason I’d like to see a deposit system put in place — it would have the effect of cutting down on litter by giving people an incentive to hold on to their glass bottles, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles rather than throwing them on the sidewalk or in the gutter.

    • jcm

      Yes please. We almost had one, but the beverage industry lobby killed it.

      • Not just killed it, but waged one of the most intensive campaigns ever! Anyone remember the TV commercial of a poor little old black grandma laboriously dragging her cart full of bottles. I think they were spilling out of the bags, and there might have also been rabid dogs following her. . .

    • west_egg

      I lived in Michigan for a summer about, oh, ten years ago. The lines to turn in bottles at the grocery were epic.

      • west_egg

        Make that 15 years. Where does the time go? (Happy New Year!)

      • Anonymous

        Also lived in Michigan for many years and never had to wait longer than a couple minutes to return bottles. Ever.

      • RL

        Used to be more annoying when you had to take them to an actual person (usually in the back of the store) for a hand count. Now grocery stores usually have multiple automated scanner/crusher machines at the entrances, so less waiting and way more convenient if you only have a few to cash in.

      • HaileUnlikely

        New York State has been doing this since 1983. I started working at a grocery store in Albany in high school in 1994 and by then they had machines to do this. The machines would print out a receipt that you then took to the cash register to exchange for cash or to use to pay for your groceries. Easy. I realize New York is waaaay ahead of DC on lots of stuff, but surely we can figure out how to do something in 2016 that NY has been doing without difficulty for over two decades.

        • west_egg

          “surely we can figure out how to do something in 2016 that NY has been doing without difficulty for over two decades”
          Decades? Pfft! Streetcars have been running for a century and we can’t even get those going! ;-)

          • FridayGirl


      • lucie

        live in Michigan for a long time. Unless it was an entire frat returning cans on a sunday afternoon, I never had a problem with lines.

  • Hmmmm

    Does this include the jail? They use a lot of styrofoam cups and sometimes trays. Aramark is the food provider.

  • bruno

    …”may” be fined? Lawyers, is that a loophole?

    • Northzax

      Offenders will receive a suspended fine for 30 days. If they can prove compliance after the 30 day period, the fine is waived.

  • Nate

    So the govt bans something and expects citizens to rattle on our neighbors.

  • Reality

    Happy about this!

  • Anonymous

    Stop snitchin’.

  • Neighbor

    Another example of unnecessary government overreach. The free market should dictate what products we use! /sarcasm/

  • Albert

    Although the environmentalist in me supports this ban, the small business supporter in me doesn’t. The woman who owns the successful carry-out in my building said her costs are going up from $0.04 per foam to-go to $0.40 for the new paper ones. Although this was good for the environment, without help for small business owners, this is going to have a big hit on them.

    • lucie

      but chances are, they’ll just pass along a large portion of the cost to you. You probably won’t notice an extra 25 cents per meal – or not enough to make a difference

  • Sean

    Its going to be interesting to see what happens to all of the food trucks that serve right outside of the DOEE office (near the NoMA Harris Teeter) every single day. Lots of citations are about to get handed out today. I live nearby and often get food in Styrofoam containers from those trucks. I won’t be there for lunch today, but I would love to see what happens during the lunch rush at 1st and M NE.


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