NYC’s Foam Ban and Foam Alternative Product Suggestions

NYC’s Foam Ban and Foam Alternative Product Suggestions

Beginning January 1, 2019 certain expanded polystyrene (EPS, popularly known as “styrofoam”) products will be banned from sale, distribution, or use in NYC. Materials covered by the ban include EPS single-service items including cups, bowls, plates, takeout containers and trays; as well as EPS loose fill “packing peanuts”. Visit for more information.

Foam Alternatives Analysis

There are many inexpensive, more sustainable alternatives to EPS foam on the market today. MSWAB Foam Alternatives Task Force took a look at food service packaging life cycle analysis studies including the recent Oregon DEQ study, consulted with NYC’s municipal recycler SIMS, and did extensive research to provide sustainable EPS foam alternatives to NYC businesses and residents.

click to watch video

click to watch video

What are the most sustainable options from a lifecycle AND end of life perspective?

From our research we learned that a few product features reduce the environmental impact of a product:

  • Recycled content

  • Relatively light in weight

  • Recyclable in your area and/or by your hauler

  • Durable, washable, reusable*

  • Post-consumer fiber content in compostable products**

*The preference is to switch to reusable food service packaging wherever possible to avoid disposal and get as many uses as possible out of the product. This significantly decreases the environmental impact of the product, because even recycling is a form of disposal (and because many recyclable materials don’t make it into the recycling bin and are instead landfilled or incinerated.)

**Compostable foodservice packaging from agricultural products (or virgin materials) has significant environmental impacts, combined with the fact that a low percentage of it is actually composted. However, some products now contain post-consumer composted fiber. These products have a lower environmental impact and are therefore preferable to compostable serviceware made with “virgin” materials.

Which disposable, recyclable products are most sustainable?

  • Aluminum products (most of which contain recycled content)

  • Rigid plastics, primarily #1, #2 and #5 recyclable plastic products containing recycled content (look for these symbols):

  • 100% recycled paper packing fill

  • Compostable products that are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute, see the logo (right). Certified compostable product that contain post-consumer fiber content are preferred. Refer to Biodegradable Products Institute ( for a searchable database of certified compostable product companies.

Foam Alternative Product Suggestions

Click on the table below (or here) to reach a view-only google spreadsheet with links to the below suggestions

*These products are compostable in a commercial facility only. Check ahead with your waste hauler to make sure they can accept these products for composting before you buy them.


Residents Using Foam Alternatives

Here are some recommendations on how to use foam alternatives in NYC and reduce waste while doing so:

On the go- Bring your own reusable cup when purchasing coffee.

Eating in at a restaurant and have leftovers- Bring your own “doggie bag”- raid your kitchen cupboard BEFORE you go out to eat and bring a reusable container with you to fill with leftovers.

Having a party- Invest in a set of durable, reusable party plates, cups, bowls and utensils to reduce the amount of waste your parties generate and save money.

Ordering catering at home or work- Ask the restaurant or caterer to bring the food in durable metal, reusable catering trays.

If you have any questions, contact us by emailing We will do our best to get back to you within a few days.

Disclaimer: The information contained here is provided by waste experts on the Manhattan Solid Waste Board. Our foam alternative recommendations are included above but we recommend you do your own research as well before purchasing foam alternatives for your business or home. Please note, the foam alternative products linked above do not indicate that we support any one business over another, these are suggestions only.