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Foam Ban

The District’s foam ban took effect on January 1, 2016. The Food Service Packaging Requirements  began on January 1, 2017.
If you see a business using foam products, leave a tip or call (202) 671-0800.

The Sustainable DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2014 bans the use of food service products made of expanded polystyrene, commonly known as foam or StyrofoamTM. The ban began on January 1, 2016 and applies to all District businesses and organizations that serve food.

Foam Free DC

Foam is easily blown by wind or washed by rain into storm drains and waterbodies. As a result, foam litter is one of the most common types of trash found in the Anacostia River. In addition to being unsightly, toxic chemicals stick to the surface of foam particles. Birds, fish, and other wildlife may ingest the foam particles, causing the polystyrene and other toxins to enter the food chain. Once in the food chain, these chemicals may impact human health.

Foam takes hundreds of years to break down and does not decompose. As a result, foam occupies significant space in landfills. Recyclable and compostable alternatives, however, can be reconstituted into other useful products.

For answers to frequently asked questions on the District’s foam ban, go to the attachments section at the bottom of this page.

Effective January 1, 2017, updated regulations state that all food service packaging may only be made with recyclable or compostable materials. Read More>>
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.

These laws apply 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

Final regulations for the foam ban were published in the DC Register on December 25, 2015. These regulations clarify how DOEE implements the ban.

Regulated Entities
Business or organizations that sell or provide food are subject to the requirements of the law. These regulations apply to all food service ware products used to serve consumers. 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.

Compliant Products
Container Examples

The Mayor’s List of Recyclables and Compostables  ultimately determines which product types are compliant. View the Food Service Packaging Requirements for more details about compliant product specifications.

You can most likely purchase compliant products wherever you currently purchase food service wares. Ask your supplier about compostable or recyclable products or view DOEE’s list of vendors  that sell compliant products, attached below.

Interested in examples of foam-free alternative products? Check out these videos of some local businesses sharing examples of their foam free alternative products:
Video Icon La Mano, Culture Coffee,
Queen Vic, Founding Farmers

DOEE will first assist regulated entities with achieving compliance through outreach and education. DOEE will also solicit tips from the public and conduct regular inspections, issuing warning letters to entities that are not in compliance. After the period of compliance assistance has ended, DOEE may issue fines to food service providers that continue to distribute foam products.

Foam Ban Fact Sheet - Including translated versions

For more information, please contact (202) 671-0080 or (202) 535-2239.