What You Need to Know About Phase II of the DC 'Foam Ban'

Monday, December 5, 2016

By Scott Pomeroy

The second phase of the D.C. "Foam Ban” is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017 making it a new requirement for all food service products in the District to be either compostable or recyclable.

In 2016, the District banned the use of expanded polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam (TM), by all businesses and organizations in the District that provide food or drink to employees, guests, members or customers. This regulation applied to everything from churches, offices and food trucks to fast-food and fine dining restaurants. 

The second phase of the “Foam Ban” will still prohibit the use of polystyrene in the District, but adds a new requirement for food service products to be compostable or recyclable, as defined by the Mayor’s List of Recyclables and Compostables. 

The regulations are an effort by the District government to rid D.C. of foam litter, which is often carried by wind or washed by stormwater into the District’s waterbodies, where it breaks into small pieces that are difficult to remove from the environment and to which toxic pollutants may adhere. These particles may be eaten by wildlife, resulting in bioaccumulation of pollutants through the food chain. Prior to the ban in 2016, foam litter was the most common form of trash found in the Anacostia River and was proven to be directly harmful to local wildlife and the environment.

The new compostable and recyclable Phase II requirement, along with the continued ban on Styrofoam (TM), supports the District's Sustainable DC goal of achieving 80 percent waste diversion by 2032. The requirements promote the use of environmentally-sustainable materials and help strengthen the District’s environmental infrastructure.

As of early December, the Mayor's list of compliant food service materials was in the process of being finalized by the Department of Public Works and was expected to be published before the end of 2016. The most current version of the Mayor’s List of compliant materials is available from the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) at: doee.dc.gov/foam. If the Mayor’s list, when published, excludes a product type currently listed on the DOEE website, then DOEE will update the website, and for three months thereafter, issue warnings rather than fines for use of that type of non-compliant product. 

Make sure that your business or organization is in compliance with the DC "Foam Ban" by familiarizing yourself with the new law and requirements by visiting DOEE's fact page about the ban here.