Washington Bans Foam Food Containers

Foam packaging to be replaced with biodegradable or recyclable paper and plastic packaging
Styrofoam Cup

Flickr / Rhys A. / CC BY 4.0

Raw meat and seafood is exempt from the ban and can still be sold in foam packaging.

As of January 1, D.C. and Montgomery County in Maryland have joined a growing list of cities and regions that have banned disposable foam coffee cups and food containers, according to The Washington Post.

The law was passed by the D.C. Council and then-mayor Vincent C. Gray in 2014 as part of a set of environmental initiatives. The foam ban in particular, according to Gray, would improve the health of the Anacostia River and help to achieve the city’s goal of making the river suitable for swimming and fishing. Gray said, “I know that sounds like a distant goal, an unrealistic goal, but we’re going to make it.”

The law requires businesses that serve food to stop using Styrofoam containers, replacing foam packaging with biodegradable or recyclable paper and plastic packaging, according to WTOP. Tommy Wells, director of D.C.’s Department of Energy and Environment, says, “It’s a trash that doesn’t decompose, and then just becomes part of our landscape. Often, because it’s so light, it gets blown out of trash cans or it ends up on the ground and it finds its way into the Anacostia River.”

To ensure businesses are complying with this new law, officials with the Department of Energy and Environment will conduct undercover spot checks, according to The Associated Press. Establishments found not in compliance will be issued a warning and given 30 days to follow the new law. Failure to do so will result in a fine of $100.

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