an official journal of: published by:
Editor in Chief: RAFFAELLO COSSU


  • Travis P. Wagner - Environmental Science and Policy, University of Southern Maine, United States

DOI 10.31025/2611-4135/2020.13903

Released under CC BY-NC-ND

Copyright: © 2019 CISA Publisher

Editorial History

  • Received: 09 Jul 2019
  • Revised: 03 Dec 2019
  • Accepted: 05 Dec 2019
  • Available online: 10 Feb 2020


There is global recognition that waste plastic is a ubiquitous pollutant in the built and natural environments. A component of plastic litter and debris is single-use, expanded polystyrene (EPS) food service ware. Reducing the consumption of EPS food service ware is challenging because reuse is not feasible, recycling is not economically viable, and composting is not possible. In the absence of national action to reduce EPS in the USA, local governments have taken the lead on enacting ordinances to eliminate or reduce EPS food service ware. This paper examined the variety of policy instruments that can or have been used by local governments in the USA to reduce EPS food service ware. Because of the inabilities to reuse, recycle, and/or compost EPS, the most frequently used policy instrument has been a ban. As of December 2019, there were 249 local bans in the USA covering 12.85% of the nation’s population: of these bans, 9.6% were partial bans restricting distribution only on government and public property, 65.9% were narrow bans that ban distribution by restaurants and food providers, 8.8% were full bans that include the narrow ban and also ban using EPS food packaging by grocery stores, and 15.7% adopted an expanded ban that includes the full ban and also baned other single-use plastic food ware related items including the selling or distributing of EPS coolers and single-use plastic utensils, straws, stirrers, lids, cups, plates, and containers.



Allen, S., Allen, D., Phoenix, V. R., Le Roux, G., Jiménez, P. D., Simonneau, A., ... & Galop, D. (2019). Atmospheric transport and deposition of microplastics in a remote mountain catchment. Nature Geoscience, 12(5), 339

Barnes, M., Chan-Halbrendt, C., Zhang, Q., & Abejon, N. (2011). Consumer preference and willingness to pay for non-plastic food containers in Honolulu, USA. Journal of Environmental Protection, 2(9), 1264-1273

Basel. (2019). Basel Convention, Plastics, Overview. Secretariat of the Basel Convention. Retrieved from

Beaumont, N. J., Aanesen, M., Austen, M. C., Börger, T., Clark, J. R., Cole, M., ... & Wyles, K. J. (2019). Global ecological, social and economic impacts of marine plastic. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 142, 189-195

Brooks, A. L., Wang, S., & Jambeck, J. R. (2018). The Chinese import ban and its impact on global plastic waste trade. Science Advances, 4(6), eaat0131.
DOI 10.1126/sciadv.aat0131

Burnett, H.S. (2013). Do bans on plastic grocery bags save cities money? Report #353. National Center for Policy Analysis. Retrieved from

Bury, D.R. (2010). Policy forum: Should extended producer responsibility programs use eco-fee-included pricing? Canadian Tax Journal, 584, 927-950

CCEAC. (2018). Carroll County Environmental Advisory Council. Expanded PS (EPS) reduction in Carroll County: single-use food service ware and loose fill packaging products. Retrieved from

City of Portland. (2013). Report of the majority of the green packaging working group recommending a ban on the sale of PS foam food packaging in Portland. Retrieved from

City of San Diego. (2016). City of San Diego, expanded PS food container recycling study. Retrieved from

Clearwater Mills. (2010). Mr. Trash Wheel™:a proven solution to ocean plastics. Retrieved from

Columbia University. (2015). Quantifying the financial costs to communities of managing trash in the Hudson-Raritan estuary. Prepared for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the USA Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2. Retrieved from

Container Recycling Institute. (2013). Bottled up (2000-2010) - beverage container recycling stagnates

Cox, K. D., Covernton, G. A., Davies, H. L., Dower, J. F., Juanes, F., & Dudas, S. E. (2019). Human consumption of microplastics. Environmental Science & Technology, 53(12), 7068-7074

Cózar, A., Echevarría, F., González-Gordillo, J. I., Irigoien, X., Úbeda, B., Hernández-León, S., ... & Fernández-de-Puelles, M. L. (2014). Plastic debris in the open ocean. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(28), 10239-10244

Crunden, E.A. (2019). Increasingly popular single-use bans pose hurdle for plastics industry. Waste Dive. Retrieved from

Curtis, C., Collins, S., Cunningham, S., Stigler, P., & Novotny, T. E. (2014). Extended producer responsibility and product stewardship for tobacco product waste. International Journal of Waste Resources, 4(3), 157-165

Davis, G., & Song, J. H. (2006). Biodegradable packaging based on raw materials from crops and their impact on waste management. Industrial Crops and Products, 23(2), 147-161

EOA. (2014). San Francisco Bay Area stormwater trash generation rates. Prepared for the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association (BASMAA). Retrieved from

EPS. (2012). Economic impact analysis of EPS food service ware costs. Prepared for City of San Jose. Prepared by Economic & Planning Systems Inc. Retrieved from

Fassler. J. (2019). Can a new reusable container program—dishwashing included—help solve America’s takeout trash problem? The New Food Economy. October 10, 2019. Retrieved from

FCSHWM. (2003). Litter from solid waste collection trucks, Report #03-04. Florida Center for Solid and Hazardous Waste Management. Retrieved from

FPI. (2014). Food residue in food service packaging recycling: overview of FPI food residue studies. Food Packaging Institute, October 2014

Galgani, F., Hanke G., & Maes T. (2015). Global distribution, composition and abundance of marine litter. In: Bergmann M., Gutow L., Klages M. (eds) Marine Anthropogenic Litter. Springer, Cham

Goldstein, N. (2019). Food waste composting infrastructure in the USA BioCycle, 60(1), 23

Hardy, M., & Charles, J.A., Jr. (2007). Sustainable failure: why Portland’s EPS foam ban should be repealed. Cascade Policy Institute. Retrieved from

Heverly, S. (2017). Recommendations for reducing or banning foam food service ware: an analysis of economic and environmental impacts of PS policies. Equinox Project Center for Sustainable Energy. Retrieved from

HUBBUB. (2018). Impact report: disposable cup charge. Retrieved from

IWMB. (2004). Use and disposal of PS in California: a report to the California Legislature. Integrated Waste Management Board. Retrieved from

Jambeck, J. R., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T. R., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., ... & Law, K. L. (2015). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347(6223), 768-771

Keybridge Research. (2009). Quantifying the potential economic impacts of a ban on PS foam food service wares in California. Prepared for Pactiv Corporation and the American Chemistry Council

LA County. (2011). Expanded PS food containers in Los Angeles County, part two: feasibility of implementing a restriction of expanded PS food containers at county unincorporated area retailers. Prepared for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors by the Los Angeles County. Retrieved from

Law, K.L. (2017). Plastics in the marine environment. Annual Review of Marine Science, 9, 205–229

Layton, L. (2015). Six of the nation’s largest school districts dump polystyrene trays. The Washington Post. May 24, 2015. Retrieved from

Leggett, C. G., Scherer, N., Haab, T. C., Bailey, R., Landrum, J. P., & Domanski, A. (2018). Assessing the economic benefits of reductions in marine debris at Southern California beaches: a random utility travel cost model. Marine Resource Economics, 33(2), 133-153

MB Public Affairs. (2017). Fiscal impacts of prohibiting expanded SUP food service ware in Maryland, SB 186 & HB 229, Preliminary Estimates

McKerlie, K., Knight, N., & Thorpe, B. (2006). Advancing extended producer responsibility in Canada. Journal of Cleaner Production, 14(6-7), 616-628

McCormick, E., Murray, B., Fonbuena, C., Kijewski, L., Saraçoğlu, G., Fuulerton, J. …(2019, June 17). Where does your plastic go? Global investigation reveals America’s dirty secret. The Guardian. Retrieved from

MDEP. (2019). Annual product stewardship report. Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Report to the Joint Standing Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources. Retrieved from

MWCOG. (2015). Montgomery County: Anacostia trash TMDL monitoring-related efforts technical memorandum 2013 - 2014. Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Prepared for the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection

NYC Department of Sanitation. (2017). Determination on the recyclability of food-service foam. Retrieved from

OECD. (208). Recommendation of the council on resource productivity. Meeting of the Environment Policy Committee (EPOC) at Ministerial Level Environment and Global Competitiveness, 28-29 April 2008. Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development. Retrieved from

Ocean Conservancy. (2019). The beach and beyond. International Coastal Cleanup 2018 Report. Retrieved from

Pender, K. (2005). Adding up the cost of bags. SF Gate, January 25, 2005. Retrieved from

Plastics Insight. (2019). Polystyrene (PS): Production, market, price and its properties. Retrieved from

Reap, J., Roman, F., Duncan, S., & Bras, B. (2008). A survey of unresolved problems in life cycle assessment. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 13(5), 374

Rivers, N., Shenstone-Harris, S., & Young, N. (2017). Using nudges to reduce waste? The case of Toronto’s plastic bag levy. Journal of Environmental Management, 188, 153-162

Romanow, K. (2012). Bring your own bag ordinace [sic] implementation results and actions to reduce EPS foam food service wares. Memorandum to the City of San Jose, CA, Transportation and Environment Committee. November 20, 2012. Retrieved from

San Diego. (2019). Curbside Recyclable materials processing & marketing contracts with Allan Company and EDCO Disposal Corporation. Memorandum, June 13, 2019. Retrieved from

San Jose. (2013). EPS foam disposable food service ware ordinance. City of San Jose, CA. Retrieved from

Schert, J. (2000). Picking up after the collection crew. Resource Recycling, 19(8), 34-39

Sedona Recycles. (2015). The real cost of recycling foam plastic. Retrieved from

Smith, E. (2017). The brief, confusing history of foam packaging. Atlas Obscura. Retrieved from

Smith, M., Love, D. C., Rochman, C. M., & Neff, R. A. (2018). Microplastics in seafood and the implications for human health. Current Environmental Health Reports, 5(3), 375-386

Staub, C. (2020). Northeast state takes next step toward EPR for packaging. Resource Recycling. Retrieved from

Stickel, B. H., Jahn, A., & Kier, B. (2012). The cost to West Coast communities of dealing with trash, reducing marine debris. Retrieved from

Suwanmanee, U., Varabuntoonvit, V., Chaiwutthinan, P., Tajan, M., Mungcharoen, T., & Leejarkpai, T. (2013). Life cycle assessment of single use thermoform boxes made from polystyrene (PS), polylactic acid,(PLA), and PLA/starch: cradle to consumer gate. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 18(2), 401-417

UNEP (2018). EPS: a roadmap for sustainability. United Nations Environment Programme. Retrieved from

US Census Bureau. (2016). Families and living arrangements. Retrieved from

US Census Bureau. (2019) Real median personal income in the United States [MEPAINUSA672N]. Retrieved from

USDA, (2018). New USA food expenditure estimates find food-away-from-home spending is higher than previous estimates. USA Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from

US EPA. (2015). Sustainable materials management (SMM) - materials and waste management in the United States key facts and figures: Data set. Retrieved from

US EPA. (2018). Advancing sustainable materials management: facts and figures 2015. US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from

US EPA. (2019). Advancing sustainable materials management: 2017 fact sheet. US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from

Vendries, J., Hawkins, T. R., Hottle, T., Mosley, J., Allaway, D., Canepa, P., ... & Mistry, M. (2018). the significance of environmental attributes as indicators of the life cycle environmental impacts of packaging and food service ware. Franklin Associates. Retrieved from

Wagner, T. P. (2009). Shared responsibility for managing electronic waste: A case study of Maine, USA. Waste Management, 29(12), 3014-3021

Wagner, T. P. (2013). Examining the concept of convenient collection: An application to extended producer responsibility and product stewardship frameworks. Waste Management, 33(3), 499-507

Wagner, T. (2016). Municipal approaches in Maine to reduce single-use consumer products. Maine Policy Review, 25(2), 31-43.

Wagner, T. P. (2017). Reducing single-use plastic shopping bags in the USA. Waste Management, 70, 3-12

Wagner, T.P., & Broaddus, N. (2016). The generation and cost of litter resulting from the curbside collection of recycling. Waste Management, 50, 3-9

Wagner, T.P., Toews, P., & Bouvier, R. (2013). Increasing diversion of household hazardous wastes and materials through mandated retailer take-back. Journal of Environmental Management, 123, 88-97

Wang, J., Tan, Z., Peng, J., Qiu, Q. and Li, M., 2016. The behaviors of microplastics in the marine environment. Marine Environmental Research, 113, pp.7-17

Weigel, B. (2018). More than a year before Styrofoam ban is to take effect, vendor for free recycling pulls plug. Baltimore Fish Bowl. Retrieved from

Weithmann, N., Möller, J. N., Löder, M. G., Piehl, S., Laforsch, C., & Freitag, R. (2018). Organic fertilizer as a vehicle for the entry of microplastic into the environment. Science Advances, 4(4), eaap8060

Zabaniotou, A., & Kassidi, E. (2003). Life cycle assessment applied to egg packaging made from polystyrene and recycled paper. Journal of Cleaner Production, 11(5), 549-559