San Francisco Bans Polystyrene Foam-Containing Products and Defines Standards for “Green” Plastics
SAFEGUARDS | Consumer Products NO. 139/16
San Francisco has recently become the first City in the US to implement a comprehensive ban on the use of polystyrene foam in consumer products. The City also set mandatory standards for compostable and biodegradable plastics.
On July 29, 2016, the mayor of the City of San Francisco approved measures to amend the Environmental Code related to packaging waste reduction. The new law, Ordinance 140-16,  is an effort to be waste-free by 2020. This comprehensive piece of legislation regulates the use of polystyrene (PS) foam, commonly but incorrectly referred as ‘styrofoam’, in a variety of products, including but not limited to one-time use food contact materials and articles for prepared foods. It also mandates the use of defined standards for compostable or biodegradable plastics.
The ordinance has several important provisions, including:
- Providing a new definition for ‘Food Service Ware’. These are containers, lids, straws, cutlery, napkins and other similar items that are designed for one-time use for prepared foods including restaurants cafes and food service establishments.
- Prohibiting the use of PS foam in: food service ware, egg cartons and fish and meat trays. Food service ware manufactured from other materials is allowed provided they are compostable or recyclable. The Director of the Department of the Environment is required to adopt and regularly update a list of suitable alternative compostable or recyclable food service ware products.
- Prohibiting the use of PS foam in other consumer products such as: coolers, ice chests or similar containers; pool or beach toys and packing materials such as shipping boxes and packing peanuts, unless these products are fully encapsulated or encased with a more durable material. The distribution of packing materials is allowed in a very limited number of applications, such as re-using packing materials for shipping, transport or storage within the same distribution system (section 1605 (d)).
- Mandating the use of the latest version of ASTM D6400 for compostable plastics or the latest version of ASTM D6868 for biodegradable plastics. Qualified products are to be labeled in accordance with California Public Resources Code Section 42357 et seq.  and Department of the Environment Regulations.
There are two effective dates:
January 1, 2017 for ordinance (except meat and fish trays)
July 1, 2017 for applications to meat and fish trays
Throughout our global network of laboratories, we are able to provide a range of services, including analytical testing and consultancy for compostable and biodegradable plastics for the US and international markets. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.
For enquiries, please contact:
Hing Wo Tsang
t: +852 2774 7420
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