Washington — More than 50 lawmakers in Congress called for a national ban on expanded polystyrene foodservice products on Dec. 7, saying they wanted to build on similar plastic foam bans that have passed in 11 states since 2019.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, led the introduction of the "Farewell to Foam Act," saying that by 2026 it would ban EPS foodservice products, loose-fill packing peanuts and nonmedical disposable foam coolers.
Industry groups said the legislation could force switches to alternative materials with higher greenhouse footprints and that EPS is not a major source of pollution, but Van Hollen pointed to pollution of waterways and health concerns around chemicals and microplastics.
"By phasing out foam and encouraging the use of more sustainable packaging, we can tackle a major driver of pollution and improve the health of our communities," Van Hollen said. "Single-use plastics like foam food containers don't disappear when you throw them away; they end up choking waterways like the Chesapeake Bay and contaminating our food supply."
His home state of Maryland was the first to pass an EPS ban, in 2019. Since then, 10 more states with a combined population of a little more than 100 million have followed, including California and New York. In August, Delaware became the 11th state.
Doggett said he wanted to build on the state and local bans and noted concerns about EPS foam breaking into microplastics, a point highlighted by other lawmakers in their joint announcement.
"As trash clutters our waterways, roadsides and greenspaces, foam doesn't fully disintegrate," Doggett said. "Instead, it ever so slowly degrades into microplastics that pollute our bodies and our planet."
The statement from Van Hollen's office called EPS "one of the most harmful forms of single-use plastic" and said it often contains toxic additives like flame retardants and colorants linked to central nervous system damage and increased cancer risk. As well, it said EPS is difficult to recycle and pointed to a study that found a 65 percent drop in plastic foam foodservice pollution in beaches and waterways after Maryland passed its 2019 ban.
One senator noted both health and recycling concerns.
"This single-use plastic often contains additional toxic additives and easily breaks down into microplastics, causing macro problems to our environment and health," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. "Unrecyclable and already banned by several states, it's time for us to enact the Farewell to Foam Act countrywide."