January 29, 2015

Council Votes to Ban Use, Sale of Certain Polystyrene Products

The Montgomery County Council has unanimously voted to ban the use and sale of certain expanded polystyrene food service products and the sale of certain polystyrene packing materials in the County. The legislation also will require the use of compostable or recyclable alternatives.

Bill 41-14 prohibits the use of foam food service products by food service businesses and the sale of foam loose fill packaging (packing peanuts) and bulk foam food service products. Among the items that the bill covers are containers, plates, cups, trays and egg cartons. Products packaged outside the County before receipt by the food service business, and materials used to package raw meat, seafood or poultry, are exempt from the prohibition.

The bill, whose chief sponsor was Councilmember Hans Riemer and which was co-sponsored by Council President George Leventhal and Councilmember Marc Elrich, will prohibit the use and sale of polystyrene foam food service products and the sale of polystyrene loose fill packaging (packing peanuts) effective January 1, 2016.

The legislation will also require the use of compostable or recyclable single-use disposable food service ware, such as plates, bowls, cups and eating utensils by the County Government and its contractors effective January 1, 2016 and for private businesses effective January 1, 2017.

Read more in the news release.


  1. Instead of banning yet ANOTHER item that will eventually cost citizens more to eat, live and work in the county, why didn't the county have the recycling arm of the county government look into ways to recycle the foam containers. Recycling exists and we already recycle a lot of containers and paper.

  2. So let me get this straight.... instead of figuring out how to recycle polystyrene at the county's much touted recycling centers, we are just going to ban it. Of course it's only banned for people in the county, so any product from outside the county can be shipped here with as much polystyrene as they want, and in the end it will still end up in our landfills......because we are too stupid to recycle it.

    1. To those who ask why not recycle polystyrene, the Division of Solid Waste Services replies: We considered adding Styrofoam as one of our recycling drop-off items but concluded that it was not the commodity to add to help us achieve the biggest advancement towards reaching our recycling goals.

      There are "hidden costs" that make it not feasible economically, and otherwise, to add Styrofoam. Those factors are: lost opportunity cost; the added cost of an attendant needed to prevent contamination since only clean Styrofoam is acceptable for recycling by the one and only recycling market that exists; the lack of a competitive and stable market situation that would ensure recycling long-term; the high volume-to-weight ratio which complicates the transportation of the material to recycling markets; and limited space available at the Transfer Station to add additional recycling commodities.

      We decided it would be far more productive to encourage reduced Styrofoam usage by employing waste reduction techniques. It is feasible to reduce the amount of Styrofoam used to begin with, and instead use compostable and recyclable food service ware and food packaging alternatives. These compostable and recyclable items are widely available, and various pricing options can be found. In fact, many food service businesses in the County already use only compostable and recyclable food service ware and packaging. For others making the change, viable and economical items can be obtained and used.


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