Polystyrene (Styrofoam™)

Polystyrene (Styrofoam™)


1.  Why is the County banning the sale and use of polystyrene (commonly known as “Styrofoam”) food service products in Prince George’s County?

To reduce the amount of foam waste entering the landfill and littering our roadways, neighborhoods and local waterways, the County is requiring the use of non-foam food packaging products that are environmentally-friendly and for everyone to be “Foam Free in PGC.” Polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam™ or foam) is found in large quantities along the Anacostia watershed. It lightweight and is easily blown by wind and carried by rain from streets and sidewalks into storm drains where it goes directly into rivers and streams. In the water, foam breaks into small pieces that pollute the County’s waterbodies, adhering to harmful toxics that bioaccumulate in the food chain when wildlife mistakes the foam for food. Not only is foam litter unsightly, it has harmful effects on the health of the County’s local bodies of water, wildlife and citizens. In addition, foam is not commonly recycled.

2. When did the “Foam Free in PGC” effort begin? 

July 1, 2016

3. Which businesses are affected?

Fast food restaurants • Cafés and delicatessens • Cafeterias • Coffee shops • Convenience stores • Discount stores • Dollar • Stores Supermarkets and grocery stores • Food carts or trucks • Pack and ship stores • Retailers and wholesalers selling disposable dishware, storage containers, packing materials and polystyrene products
Single-use items, including straws*, utensils, condiment cups and packets, cup sleeves**, splash sticks, stirrers, and napkins, provided with ready-to-eat food and designed to be used once and then discarded.

4. Is Prince George’s County the only jurisdiction to ban foam products? 

No. Washington, D.C., Montgomery County and the City of Tacoma Park in Maryland have also passed “foam free” laws aimed at reducing foam litter.

5. What are some example of single use foam food service products?
  • Cups
  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Carry out containers
  • Trays
  • Packing peanuts

6. What are acceptable alternative products and where are they available for purchase? 

There are environmentally friendly alternatives available, such as reusable trays, plates, bowls, cups, paper products, and others made from recycled content which are also recyclable or compostable. Non-foam food service products are readily available from various vendors at comparable prices. A list of vendors that offer alternative or compliant products is available at environment.mypgc.us/foamfree.

7. How will this law be enforced? 
Warnings will be issued for the first violation. A $250 fine will be issued for the second violation and a $1,000 fine for the third violation within a 12 month period. Each day a violation exists is a separate offense.

8. How are businesses being notified?

Postcards with detailed information about being “Foam Free in PGC” have been mailed to businesses throughout the County. Information materials are also available online at environment.mypgc.us/foamfree.

9. How can I report a business or organization that continues to use foam products?

Please report tips to PGC311 or dialing 3-1-1. All tips can be anonymous. A DoE inspector will follow up with the report by conducting an inspection of the establishment.