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Food Service Packaging Requirements

The Food Service Packaging Requirements began on January 1, 2017. The District’s Foam Ban took effect on January 1, 2016.
If you see a business using non-compliant products, leave a tip or call (202) 671-0080.


Effective January 1, 2017, new regulations mandate District businesses and organizations that sell or serve food or beverages in the District to exclusively use recyclable or compostable food service products.

Packaging waste occupies a significant amount of limited space available in our landfills. Recyclable and compostable alternatives, however, can be reconstituted into other useful products. The District is implementing regulations on the materials which can be used to serve food to reduce our waste.
Food Service Packaging
Requirements of the Law
The law applies to any food service products designed for single use. These include take-out containers, bowls, plates, trays, cups, cutlery, 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

Regulations for the 2017 compostable and recyclable requirements are based on the Mayor’s List of Recyclables and Compostables, which was published on December 21, 2016.

Final regulations for the 2017 food service packaging requirements were published in the DC Register on February 3, 2017.

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:

  • Bars,
  • Delis,
  • Cafes,
  • Cafeterias,
  • Carry-outs,
  • Food trucks,
  • Restaurants,
  • Grocery stores,
  • Daycare providers,
  • Companies that provide free coffee to clients,
  • Churches that offer coffee to parishioners after a service, and;
  • Non-profit organizations that host a breakfast and provide food for attendees.

Compliant Products
DOEE defines recyclable and compostable according to the Mayor’s List of Recyclables and Compostables. DOEE will issue warnings for the first 90 days after the effective date so that regulated entities have enough time for the transition to compliant products.  

Products are considered* recyclable if they are made of:

  • Rigid plastics
    • #1: polyethylene terephthalate (PET),
    • #2: high-density polyethylene (HDPE)
    • #4: low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
    • #5: polypropylene (PP)
    • #6: polystyrene (PS)
  • Uncoated molded pulp or paper
  • Paperboard coated with a moisture or grease barrier coating, provided the coating is not made of wax or compostable plastic

Products are considered* compostable if they are:

  • Made entirely of uncoated paper or plant fiber
  • Made of paper or pulp with a wax coating

Certified compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute (list of certified products can be found at products.bpiworld.org.
Food Packaging items

Examples of Non-Compliant Products Examples of Compliant Products

- Sandwich twist ties
- Aluminum-coated paper to-go containers
- Items that are a plastic and paper mix (paper bags with a plastic window, paper cups with a foam exterior, etc.)
- Plastic film made of unrecyclable plastic resins (Saran wrap, other wraps made of plastic #7)









- Rigid plastic or paper clamshells, plates, bowls, trays and other to-go containers
- Coffee and soda cups
- Coffee and soda cup lids
- Pizza boxes
- Coated paper soup containers
- Sandwich wraps, deli-liners, and pastry bags (wax-coated or BPI-certified)
- Rigid plastic or wooden cutlery
- Condiment cups
- Napkins
- Uncoated Kraft paper
- Plastic or wooden coffee stirrers
- Straws
- Kraft paper bags
- Bakery boxes
- Molded pulp drink carriers
-Tin foil
- Plastic film made of recyclable resins (#1, #2, #4, #5, #6)

*Reference the Mayor’s List of Recyclables and Compostables for a complete list of recyclable and compostable materials.

Businesses will most likely be able to purchase compliant products wherever they currently purchase food service ware. Ask your supplier about recyclable or compostable products, or view DOEE’s list of vendors that sell compliant products.

Check out these videos of some local businesses sharing examples of their successful conversion to recyclable or compostable 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.

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

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