Foam Food Container Prohibition Act

Summary: The Foam Food Container Prohibition Act bans restaurants, grocery stores and other food providers from using expanded polystyrene containers because of their harmful impact on the environment.

The first such legislation to pass a state legislature is Maryland SB 285 (2019), which had overwhelming bipartisan support.


This Act shall be called the “Foam Food Container Prohibition Act.”


(A) FINDINGSThe legislature finds that:

1) Expanded polystyrene is a lightweight material that is often used as foam food containers. (To be clear, Styrofoam is a brand-name product which is not used in disposable food containers.)

2) Expanded polystyrene containers are carried by the wind and runoff into waterways where they break into small beads and absorb toxins. These toxic microplastics, which are impossible to clean up, are mistaken for food by fish and marine mammals, with fatal results.

3) Expanded polystyrene containers are not compostable or recyclable in an economically sustainable way so, if they do not become litter, they become a strain on landfills and incinerators.

4) There are many widely available and affordable alternatives to foam food containers.

5) Large counties and municipalities (like New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Portland, Oregon and Washington, D.C.) have already successfully made the transition with little disruption and high compliance rates.

(B) PURPOSEThis law is enacted to improve the environment and long-term quality of life for all residents.


After section XXX, the following new section XXX shall be inserted:

(A) DEFINITIONS—In this section:

1) “Expanded polystyrene” means blown polystyrene and expanded and extruded foams that are thermoplastic petrochemical materials utilizing a styrene monomer and processed by a number of techniques, including fusion of polymer spheres (expandable bead polystyrene), injection molding, foam molding, and extrusion–blow molding (extruded foam polystyrene).

2) “Expanded polystyrene food service product” means a product made of expanded polystyrene that is used for selling or providing food or beverages, and intended by the manufacturer to be used once for eating or drinking, or generally recognized by the public as an item to be discarded after one use. “Expanded polystyrene food service product” includes: food containers; plates; hot and cold beverage cups; trays; and cartons for eggs or other food. “Expanded polystyrene food service product” does not include: food or beverages that have been filled and sealed packaged in expanded polystyrene containers outside the state before receipt by the a food service business, or a product made of expanded polystyrene that is used to package raw, uncooked, or butchered meat, fish, poultry, or seafood.

3) “Food service business” means a business in the state that sells or provides food or beverages for consumption on or off the premises. “Food service business” includes a business or institutional cafeteria, including a cafeteria operated by or on behalf of the state or a local government.”

4) “School” includes: a public elementary or secondary school; a nonpublic elementary or secondary school; and an institution of higher education, as defined in [cite appropriate code section].


1) A person may not sell or offer for sale in the state an expanded polystyrene food service product.

2) A food service business or school may not sell or provide food or beverages in an expanded polystyrene food service product.

3) This section does not prohibit a person from storing a food storage service product for later distribution outside the state.


1) The [Department of the Environment] shall conduct a public education and outreach campaign before and during the implementation of this section, which shall include:

a) contact with food service businesses, relevant trade organizations, and relevant agencies of local government;

b) contact with schools and relevant education government agencies;

c) distribution of information through Internet and web–based resources; and

d) news releases and news events.

2) The Department shall combine this with a public education and outreach antilittering campaign.

3) The Department may grant to a food service business or school a waiver from the application of this section for a period of up to one year if the Department determines that achieving compliance under this section would present an undue hardship or a practical difficulty not generally applicable to other food service businesses or schools in similar circumstances.

4) Both the Department and an environmental enforcement agency of local government shall be empowered to enforce this section. After written notice and a period of at least four weeks to correct, a penalty not exceeding [$1,000] may be imposed on a person or food service business that violates this section.

5) A local government may also enact and enforce standards that are at least as stringent as the standards established in this subtitle.

6) The Department may adopt regulations to implement this section.


This law shall become effective on July 1, 20XX and the prohibitions in Section (3)(B) shall take effect one year thereafter.