Effective January 1, 2022 expanded polystyrene (EPS), single-use foam food and beverage containers, and polystyrene loose fill packaging materials are banned in New York State. This means covered food service providers, retailer, and wholesalers are no longer allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute disposable food service containers that contain expanded polystyrene foam in New York. In addition manufacturers and stores will not be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute polystyrene loose fill packaging (packing peanuts) in the state. For more information on the ban please visit the NYS DEC website at: https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/120762.html
When it comes to expanded polystyrene (EPS), commonly known as STYROFOAM™ it is also important to know that it does NOT belong in recycling bins across New York State.
We often come across EPS in the form of single-use disposable coffee cups, take-out food containers, and packaging material. While it is valued for its convenience, resistance to leakage, and insulation, it is not recyclable with our current infrastructure and our reliance on this material needs to be reconsidered.
EPS is actually a form of plastic (which is why you’ll sometimes see the chasing arrows symbol on foam items), but don’t toss it in your recycling bin because it is too difficult to separate from other plastics, paper, etc. Another challenge associated with recycling EPS has to do with its weight (or lack thereof). Remember that the “E” in EPS stands for “expanded”, so it consists mostly of air. To make it economically viable to ship around and recycle into new things, the foam needs to be clean, separate from other plastics and recyclables, and densified with a specialized piece of equipment that is not widely available.
If you have a large quantity of clean foam that needs to be managed, contact your local recycling coordinator to ask about potential collection options near you. If none are available, dispose of these items in the trash.
Bottom line: keep STYROFOAM™ out of the recycling stream. Even if it has the recycling symbol on it.