Expanded polystyrene ban

Images of expanded polystyrene products: cups, clamshells, plates, bowls, trays, coolers, and packaging peanuts.
Several types of expanded polystyrene, sometimes called Styrofoam™, will soon be banned for sale and distribution in Washington. 

What is expanded polystyrene (EPS)?

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam is often referred to as Styrofoam™, a trademarked version of the material. However, the correct term for this material is expanded polystyrene.

Problems with expanded polystyrene

Expanded polystyrene materials are difficult to recycle, and it’s expensive. They aren’t accepted in most of Washington’s residential recycling programs and are treated instead as a contaminant. Because they are not readily recyclable, the materials end up in landfills, waste-to-energy facilities, or the environment. 

EPS materials are extremely brittle and break easily into tiny pieces. These small pieces scatter in the wind and contaminate the environment.

Bans on expanded polystyrene begin in 2023 and 2024

In June 2023, packing peanuts and other void-filling packaging will be banned.

In June 2024, portable coolers will be banned.

In June 2024, food service products like containers, plates, bowls, clam shells, trays, and cups will be banned.

  • Portable coolers for drugs, medical devices, and biological materials
  • Portable coolers for shipping perishable commodities from a wholesale or retail establishment
  • Packaging for raw, uncooked, or butchered meat, fish, poultry, or seafood, vegetables, fruit, or egg cartons

Impacted businesses

The new law will impact producers of these expanded polystyrene products:

  • Void filling packaging (“packing peanuts”) 
  • Portable coolers 
  • Food service products, including food containers, clamshell containers, plates, trays, and cups

Many other businesses, institutions, and importers who distribute or sell expanded polystyrene in Washington may need to adapt to comply with the law:

  • Retail establishments
  • Mailing/shipping businesses
  • Restaurants
  • Coffee shops and drive-throughs
  • Health care and institutional cafeterias, like school cafeterias
  • Small businesses

What’s next?

We are providing technical assistance and guidance to manufacturers of the prohibited products. Also, we are working with local governments, producers, distributors, retailers, associations, and nonprofits to develop outreach materials.