June 16, 2021

Laws to ban EPS are coming. Are you ready?


Legislation to ban EPS beyond coffee cups is here…finally.

Two key states have new laws going into effect on January 1 of 2022, and both are widening the scope of the current EPS bans to include more than just coffee cups. It is about time, and it’s a game-changer for the environment in these states and how we address EPS packaging in the future. From 2002 to 2016, there were an estimated 316 metric tons of EPS produced globally. That is a lot of EPS waste, and to put it in scale, just one million metric tons of EPS would fill AT&T Stadium in Texas more than ten times over. Really. But instead of sitting in Cowboy Stadium, it ends up on our earth.

New York and Washington State laws go into effect on January 1 of 2022, which significantly increase the number of EPS items banned from use and, more importantly, go well beyond the food industry. For the first time, legislators include EPS packaging materials in the bans for both states, with New York limiting the EPS packaging to loose-fill EPS. In contrast, Washington State’s ban consists of all EPS packaging materials; this is significant because packaging materials are being included with food packaging the first time. The EPS ban impact will be felt from coffee makers to big-screen TVs and beyond. Remember the last TV you bought? Remember the chunks of EPS blocks that you had to try and stuff in your trash can that eventually ended up in your local landfill? Yes, that is the EPS packaging Washington State’s law addresses, and one that will stop filling our planet up with EPS waste.

In New York’s law banning EPS for 2022, it states:

Under the Expanded Polystyrene Foam Container and Polystyrene Loose Fill Packaging Ban, effective January 1, 2022, no covered food service provider (retail or wholesale) will be allowed to sell or distribute disposable food service containers that contain expanded polystyrene foam in New York. In addition, no manufacturer or store will be allowed to sell, offer for sale, or distribute polystyrene loose fill packaging (commonly referred to as packing peanuts) in the state. New York has started to address EPS packaging with this new law by banning loose-fill EPS, but it is only a start.

EPS peanuts make up only a fraction of the EPS packaging destined for New York landfills. As for all the waste it continues to produce, from every big-screen TV, desktop printer, and coffee machine sold, New York will (literally) have to live with it for the next couple of hundred years. Nevertheless, it is a positive step in the right direction and a good start, hopefully leading to future bans of everything EPS and finally stop polluting our planet when we do not need to.

On the other hand, Washington State’s new law goes right at the heart of all things EPS, including EPS in packaging materials. There is not much room for doubt in this law, and the impact will be felt even more in Washington State as it will address the other significant EPS pollution along with food containers.

The key messaging for Washington States’ new law is clear: Effective June 1, 2022, this legislation prohibits the sale, manufacture, and distribution of EPS foodservice products, coolers, and packaging materials in or into the state of Washington. Foodservice products include food containers, plates, clamshells, and hot and cold beverage cups. It exempts packaging for raw, uncooked, or butchered meat, fish, poultry, and packaging for seafood, vegetables, fruit, and egg cartons. It also exempts EPS products used to transport or store biological materials such as medical items. Wholesale or retail establishments that use EPS coolers to transport perishable items are also exempted from this prohibition.

Again, both are pretty clear laws banning EPS packaging materials, along with other EPS packaging that is soon to be trash. EPS is not recyclable. But there are multiple alternatives to EPS. The sooner we adapt and embrace these new environmentally friendly and safe materials, the sooner we can stop the damage being done to our environment today. Other states are rushing to catch up to ban EPS, with more legislation on the books for California in 2023 that proposes to enact the same EPS packaging bans as Washington State has.

So, the EPS ban dominos are starting to fall, and soon every state will ban EPS from their people, their landfills, and their world.

If we leave mother nature alone, she at least has a chance to be there for us.