WASHINGTON — Polystyrene foam will soon be in short supply in the Capitol City.
Mayor Vincent Gray (D) on July 29 signed into law a bill that will ban foam food and drink containers.
The ban will take effect Jan. 1, 2016 — two years sooner than the legislation Gray originally drafted. Food and beverage outlets including restaurants, carry-outs and food trucks will be required to offer only compostable or other recyclable containers or face a fine. Foam meat trays used by butchers and grocery stores are exempt.
Washington joins several West Coast cities that have already imposed PS bans, including Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. Washington's measure is part of a larger environmental cleanup bill, the Sustainable D.C. Omnibus Act of 2014, approved by the D.C. Council with very little debate earlier this month.
The American Chemistry Council said such bans are expensive for local businesses and have proven to do little for the environment.
“However well-intentioned, banning polystyrene foam foodservice will not improve sustainability in the District,” ACC said in a statement following the council's vote to approve the ban. “In fact, by promoting compostable products when opportunities to compost these products don't currently exist in the city, and by failing to examine recycling opportunities for polystyrene foam as many communities have, the Council is requiring the use of food service ware that may actually be worse for the environment.”
The foam ban comes four years after the District began imposing a 5-cent tax on single-use plastic bags at local retailers, which is generating about $2 million annually for watershed cleanup efforts. Advocates say the bag tax and now the foam ban will go a long way in helping clean up nearby waterways, particularly the Anacostia River.