Implementation of a state law that prohibits restaurants, stores, and a wide variety of other eating establishments including places in the entertainment, hospitality, recreation, and tourism industries; catering establishments; correctional facilities; hospital cafeterias; mobile eating places; public and private schools; and workplace cafes from using polystyrene foam disposable food containers will take effect on July 1, 2021.
The ban on polystyrene foam containers was scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2021. However, the ban’s enforcement was delayed in December of 2020 due to concerns regarding a disruption in packaging supplies and logistical effects caused by COVID-19 Pandemic. The DEP has encouraged businesses and other entities that utilize polystyrene foam products for processing, preparing, containing or serving food to use the additional time provided by enforcement delays to procure alternatives to these products. Disposable food service containers are service ware designed for one-time use, and include bowls, plates, trays, carton, cups, lids sleeves, or other items for containing, transporting, and serving foods.
Recently, emergency legislation was passed by the 130th Maine Legislature making several changes to the original law. The new law will exempt raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from the polystyrene foam ban until July 1, 2025 and remove an exemption in the original law that allowed items prepackaged at wholesale in another state to be purchased by Maine retailers and resold in polystyrene foam packaging to Maine consumers. As of July 1, 2025, all food and beverage products sold in Maine, whether prepackaged out of State or not, cannot be packaged in polystyrene foam. The bill was signed into law by Governor Mills on June 15.
DEP advises the regulated community to take caution when procuring replacement containers for polystyrene foam. Many products that claim to be compostable, plant based, or biodegradable may still be made with a styrene additive to provide extruded foam properties to the product. However, products with a styrene additive, even if plant based or compostable, are not exempt from the ban.
Additional information regarding the polystyrene ban can be found on DEP’s website at https://www.maine.gov/dep/waste/recycle/polystyrene-foam.html.