Frequently Asked Questions about NYC’s Foam Ban
Are any materials exempt from the ban?
Yes, several materials are exempt from the ban.
EPS containers that are filled with food and sealed before receipt by the food service establishment, mobile food commissary, or store.
EPS containers filled with raw meat, poultry, seafood, fish, pork that will be sold in a butcher case or similar retail appliance, such as a refrigerated section of a store.
Foam blocks used to protect items during shipment/transit, such as foam blocks used to protect a television or computer screen.
What businesses are covered by the ban?
Any business or store that is located in or operates in New York City, such as retail stores, food service establishments, mobile food commissaries (e.g. food trucks and food carts ) and manufacturers must comply with the ban.
Are any organizations granted exemption from the ban?
Yes. Small businesses and non-profits may apply for temporary hardship exemption from the Department of Small Business Services (SBS).
Small businesses with less than $500,000 in gross income, per location, for the most recent tax year and non-profits are allowed to apply. They may not be part of a chain food service establishment or a chain store. Proof must be provided to establish that the purchase of alternative products would create a financial hardship for the business or non-profit. SBS began accepting hardship waiver applications in the Fall of 2018. Waivers are valid for up to 12 months. Visit nyc.gov/foamwaiverfor more information about the application process.
Where possible, businesses are encouraged to reuse all packaging materials they receive, including polystyrene peanuts, before disposal. The packing materials cannot be sold or offered for sale by the business.
Do shipping companies accept packing peanuts from customers?
Some business locations will accept peanuts, but it is recommended to check with the individual business before attempting to donate the peanuts.
Are NYC residents covered by the ban?
Yes. Individuals are prohibited from selling or offering for sale EPS foam, including packing peanuts. Individuals and businesses are allowed to reuse packing peanuts that have been sent to them.
What are the fines for violating the ban?
Fines will be issued for each Notice of Violation within a 12-month period. The 12-month period and fines will reset after each 12-month period
First offense = $250
Second offense = $500
Third and all subsequent offenses = $1,000
Is there a grace period before fines are levied?
Fines for violations will begin on July 1, 2019.
How can citizens report violations?
Citizens can call 311 to report a violation.
How often will inspections occur?
Routine inspections will occur on an annual basis, at minimum.
311 investigations will occur on an as-needed basis.
What NYC departments will be conducting the investigations?
The NYC Department of Sanitation, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and NYC Department of Consumer Affairs will be conducting the investigations.
Have other U.S. cities banned EPS?
Yes, many cities have enacted similar bans. Included among them are:
San Francisco, CA
Miami Beach, FL
San Jose, CA
Takoma Park, MD
A more comprehensive list can be found at https://www.surfrider.org/pages/polystyrene-ordinances
Have any states enacted similar foam bans?
Maine is the first state to ban polystyrene food containers. It will take effect on January 01, 2021.