San Francisco Makes Polystyrene Ban Complete—Almost

You can leave your heart in San Francisco, but don’t even think about leaving—let alone using—polystyrene foam coolers or packing peanuts. The city’s supervisors approved a measure in June that goes far beyond the prohibition on foam food carryout containers in effect in dozens of cities and counties.

San Francisco’s new ban on “expanded polystyrene,” the insulating foam that manufacturers and shippers use to cushion goods and keeps drinks hot or cold, prohibits city businesses from using the material to sell goods packaged in or made of polystyrene. But the legislation does nothing to stop foam-wrapped goods that are shipped into the city, including foodservice equipment and supplies, and just about everything else, which diminishes San Francisco’s stated purpose of reducing waste.

Debbie Raphael, director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, acknowledges the city can’t control its borders nor can its contracted garbage company recycle the product, but says it can lead the way to influence other communities and states.

The ban on the retail sale of foam goods is effective January 1.

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