Most plastic foam containers banned in Washington starting June 1

Photo courtesy Washington State Department of Ecology

Your to-go box and other food service items will be changing starting this summer. Beginning June 1, restaurants, businesses, organizations, or other institutions will no longer be able to provide expanded polystyrene foam coolers, cups, trays, bowls, or clamshell containers to customers, the Washington State Department of Ecology said.

Alternatives are available and already in wide use as most restaurants have already made the switch, however Washingtonians may still come across these items when they take food home from them.

The restrictions are the latest phase in a 2021 law that seeks to reduce the use of plastic products that frequently end up as trash and litter, the ecology department said. The plastic foam food service product restrictions apply to anyone who sells or distributes plastic foam products. This includes retail, restaurants, coffee shops and drive-thrus, health care and correctional facilities, institutions, government entities, organizations and schools.

“Single-use plastic foam products are cheap to buy, but their environmental cost is high,” said Peter Lyon, solid waste management program manager for the ecology department, which is responsible for implementing the plastics law. “Expanded polystyrene is difficult to recycle and often ends up becoming litter. There are many alternatives available, so switching away from these materials should be an easy step for businesses and consumers.”

Items not included in the plastic foam ban are egg cartons or packaging for raw, uncooked or butchered meat fish, poultry, seafood, vegetables and fruit. Visit this ecology department website for a full list of banned and exempted plastic foam products.

Most products do not get recycled because they are often not accepted in curbside recycling bins or at local recycling facilities in Washington. Ecology’s 2022 litter study estimated that 1 million pieces of plastic foam cups, bowls and clamshells, and 191 million pieces of other plastic foam products accumulate across state each year.

Ecology said it intends to initially focus its efforts on educating businesses about the law and alternatives to plastic foam products, but the law includes penalties of $250 for the first offense, and $1,000 for additional incidents where businesses don’t comply with the restrictions.

The department has been working to inform businesses about the new restrictions for more than a year.

The public can submit reports of businesses not following the law through this ecology department website.


  1. I am disappointed about the exemptions for egg cartons and packaging for raw, uncooked or butchered meat fish, poultry, seafood, vegetables and fruit. it makes no sense to exempt these.

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