Those foam clamshell containers long used by restaurants for takeout food will soon be illegal statewide in Washington. Coffee cups, plates, trays and other food and drink carriers made from the same material — known as expanded polystyrene — will also be outlawed. Single-use foam coolers, too. The prohibition on the sale and distribution of these products will take effect June 1 under a law the Legislature approved in 2021.

“It’s a big deal,” Heather Trim, executive director of Zero Waste Washington said of the restrictions. “We have had, over time, just an explosion in the use of single-use plastic foodware.” Recycling expanded polystyrene is possible. But the state’s Department of Ecology notes that it is expensive to do and that most residential recycling programs don’t accept the foam. Food residue on the material complicates things further. And when the foam does end up in recycling facilities, it can blow around and contaminate other materials.

A spokesperson for the Washington Hospitality Association, which represents restaurants, said the group was neutral on the 2021 bill when it moved through the Legislature and wasn’t interested in commenting on the restrictions going into effect in June. Last year, the state prohibited the sale and distribution of foam packing peanuts under the same law.

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Author: Bill Lucia, The Seattle Times