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San Diego City Bans Polystyrene Foam Containers

Foam products
Created: 16 November, 2022
Updated: 13 September, 2023
1 min read

The City of San Diego has passed a new ordinance banning single-use food packaging commonly known as styrofoam, the white spongy material used for food trays, egg cartons, cups, and other disposable containers.

Beginning in April 2023, polystyrene foam products will no longer be allowed at any City facilities and no City departments will be able to use public funds to purchase polystyrene foam products. 

San Diego joins more than 100 other cities, including seven cities in San Diego County, which have already banned single-use plastic packaging. New York City and the State of Maine banned single-use foam packaging in 2019.

Single-use plastic products not only create landfill waste, but are also increasing found as pollution in the ocean. Trace amounts of plastics found in humans have been traced through fish and other seafood that ingest plastic waste.

Although the proper name for these food packaging products is Polystyrene foam, the common term of "Styrofoam" is often misused. Styrofoam is actually another product used for insulation made using closed-cell Extruded Polystyrene foam (EPF), not the Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) used for white food packaging.

The new ordinance allows waivers for businesses contracting with the City or serving the public for feasibility-based hardship if no reasonably feasible alternative to polystyrene foam exists; a one-year waiver for financial hardship for entities with income of less than $500,000 per year and for which there is no suitable and reasonably affordable alternative product available; a one-year waiver for entities with a contract to purchase noncompliant material that was already in place before the effective date of the ordinance.

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