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Foam Ban Update

Foam ban information and alternatives.

The Foam Ban: What You Need to Know


Executive Summary:

Both Nassau and Suffolk Counties have signed into law bans on Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) most commonly referred to as foam or styrofoam; In addition, Suffolk County has also implemented a limited ban on straws. These laws go into effect on January 1st, 2020.

The ban covers most foam products used in foodservice except foam used for packaging raw meat and eggs. For instance: Raw meat packaged by a butcher on a foam tray is exempt. Pre-packaged food products that have been purchased elsewhere, such as bread purchased for resale from a wholesale baker packed on a foam tray, are also exempt. It is unclear at this time how this would affect the wholesale baker who packages the food in Nassau or Suffolk.

There are minimal costs for changing food packaging to non-banned replacement products with two exceptions: Foam hinged trays commonly used for hot food takeout and breakfast takeout and foam catering products such as plates. Expect costs on these two categories to effectively double to triple depending on what replacement product is used. Foam soup cups will also need to be replaced at roughly double the cost, but are not very popular in our region. We at Price Paper highly encourage our customers to consider these costs when pricing hot food items for takeout and catering orders. All businesses selling food in Nassau and Suffolk will be faced with these cost increases and will also have to include the cost in their pricing.

Details and replacement strategies:

Foam cups -

Foam cups can be used for hot or cold drinks such as hot coffee as well as cold iced tea. These foam cups need to be replaced with two separate products; a paper hot cup and either a plastic drink cup or a paper cold cup. Due to the increased cost of foam cups in the recent past few years and the decrease in costs on their replacements, neither paper hot cups nor clear plastic cold cups should provide much if any of a hardship on your business.

Paper hot cups have increased in popularity and decreased in cost. If you are currently using printed foam cups for hot beverages, we do not anticipate a cost change to you for switching to paper. The sizes available are the same and one lid fits nearly all sizes sold. If you are currently using plain white foam, there will be a minor cost increase, somewhere in the one to two-cent range; however it will be offset, because white foam cups typically hold more fluid ounces of the product than a comparable paper cup. For instance, a white foam 16J16 cup holds 18.5 fluid ounces whereas a paper cup holds 16 ounces. You will save 2.5 ounces of the product on each sale which more than pays for the cup change. In fact, it will return a profit.

Clear cold cups are all the rage and used by many businesses already. They look good and “clearly” display the product being sold. This follows the same suit as the paper cups. If you are currently using printed foam cups, the cost change is negligible EXCEPT on the largest of sizes. On larger sizes such as 32-ounce cups and 44-ounce cups there is a cost increase of around 5 to 7 cents. The smaller sizes such as 12, 16 and 24 ounces are comparable in cost. White foam cups are less but also hold more product, the same as in the paper vs white foam comparison.

Paper cold cups are another less popular alternative due to their limitations, which include: 1.They get soft over time; 2. They do not show the product well and; 3. They are less rigid so their lids can pop off more easily, creating spills. Paper cold cups do offer some savings in the range of 1 cent per cup over clear plastic cold cups. While not a recommended foam replacement, we do have plenty in stock in the smaller sizes for those who are interested.

Foam Soup Containers -

There are many replacement options for soup. The most popular replacement for foam soup containers is paper. Price Paper has a brand new exclusive paper soup container that is not only cost-effective, but also has a clear lid for showing the product. One lid fits all the popular sizes. The cups are color-coded to make it easy to distinguish between them for cashiers to ring them up properly. The new cups also have a “stacking lug” which makes stacking cups upon each other a breeze. As compared to foam soup containers, the cost is about double, or around an 8 to 12 cents increase.

Other ideas for foam soup cup replacement include the “Chinese soup” plastic containers which are around 1.5 times the cost of foam and the various microwavable plastic bowls in which the pricing varies significantly but starts around 3-4 times foam. The “Chinese soup” plastic containers soften under high heat and should be wrapped in film to protect against leaking and lids popping off in transit. If you are interested in microwave bowls for soup, please ask your salesperson or customer service representative for more information.

Foam catering products -

There is no getting around this one. Foam plates are very inexpensive and their replacements are not nearly so. There are two main categories that can replace foam plates for catering: Thermal plastic plates and Bagasse or “sugar cane” plates. Both cost double that of foam at roughly 8 cents for a 9-inch plate as of the date of this memo. The benefits of plastic plates include: 1. Rigidity, 2. a lack of softening due to heat or moisture and 3. Cut resistance. The bagasse or “sugar cane” plates look more “green” to customers, absorb grease well from fried foods and barbecued meats, and have a thicker feel to them; However, moisture and heat can make them slightly soft and they can be cut more easily than plastic. Both are excellent products and many customers use both for different types of catering applications--For instance, white thermal plastic plates would be used for indoor catering and bagasse plates for outdoor barbeques.

Foam hinged containers -

Foam hinged containers are often used for hot food served from steam tables and also breakfast items such as omelets from the grill. These are the most costly items to replace. There are four different types of packaging that will do the job each with their own costs and benefits.

The least expensive foam replacement is aluminum food containers. These cost roughly 1.5 times the cost of foam hinged containers, in the range of 10 cents for the smallest to around 16 cents for the largest containers. They are a tried and true packaging solution, but have the appearance of being dated for the same reason. They come in similar sizes, although they neither exactly match the appearance, nor hold the same amount of food, potentially increasing food costs. The other main issue with aluminum food packaging is the lid fit isn’t great, they trap in steam, and are somewhat flimsy to handle with heavier foods in them.

The next foam replacement cost-wise is bagasse or “sugar cane” hinged containers. They cost roughly double with a price range from 12 cents to 24 cents. Bagasse hinged trays come in the same sizes as foam and are a drop-in replacement. They are particularly well suited to fried foods, better than foam, as they absorb some of the frying liquid and allow steam to escape keeping fried foods crisp. They handle heat well and moisture moderately well. They work under warming lamps and are considered a “green” solution by customers. They are reasonably microwaved safe although they have a tendency to get soft over time if used to store food in refrigeration. Price Paper considers this product to be a very good foam replacement in both performance and price.

Close on the heels of bagasse price-wise is Mineral Filled Polypropylene (MFPP) hinged containers. These cost about a penny more than their bagasse counterparts, ranging from 13 to 25 cents each. They are fully microwaveable, top-shelf dishwasher safe, and do not soften over time in refrigeration. When used with fried foods, they are not as performant as bagasse; however, with hot foods from a steam table MFPP trays are better because they are impervious to moisture. MFPP trays come in the same sizes as foam hinged trays and are a drop-in replacement. They are safe under heat lamps as well. Price Paper considers this product to be a very good foam replacement in both performance and price. MFPP trays are particularly good when you would like your customers to be able to store and reheat food.
Lastly, and most expensive of the foam hinged tray replacements are black microwavable containers and the various bagasse “specialty” green products. These products typically cost 4 to 6 times more than foam, in a range of 22 cents upwards to around 70 cents. They do however offer many benefits over MFPP and bagasse hinged trays---the primary of which is that they look better. The microwavable variants typically come in a black bottom where food presents better and “pops” out. They have a clear or nearly clear lid where the customer can see the food. Polypropylene products are microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe. Some products are vented to keep fried foods crisp. They are also reusable and customers tend to keep them for further reuse; this is very popular. Price Paper does not recommend these products as a cost-effective way to replace a foam hinged container; however, because most foodservice businesses need to increase their hot food prices to compensate for foam replacement, it might be a good opportunity to upgrade the look of your food packaging while passing the cost along to the consumer.

Straws (Suffolk only) -

Plastic straws have been banned in Suffolk County effective January 1st.  Biodegradable and back-yard compostable straws are able to be given if the customer requests one. Customers will need to be trained to request a straw when purchasing drinks that require them. These “eco-friendly” straws may also be provided at drive-throughs and self-service beverage stations. The only cost-effective solution to the “biodegradable and back-yard compostable straw” requirements at this time are paper straws. The standard size costs roughly a penny each while larger straws cost more. They do not represent a substantial increase in cost to our customers and the reduced usage will likely result in net savings. Performance-wise, they aren’t as tough as plastic straws--They do soften over time and typically last about an hour. On the plus side, paper straws are also available in black which looks very good in a clear cup.

Enforcement and disclaimers

Enforcement in Suffolk County is to be handled by the Department of Health. We do not know at this time when they will begin enforcing the law.

Enforcement in Nassau County is to be handled by the Department of Consumer Affairs. We do not know at this time when they will begin enforcing the law.

Fines range typically from up to $500 on the first offense and $1000 on the second, although this could vary based on county. The plastic straw ban (Suffolk only) starts at around $100.

Price Paper is not a law firm and we can not provide legal advice. We offer this information freely and on a “best-effort” basis in the hopes that it is useful to our customers. Price Paper can not guaranty legal compliance of these foam ban laws nor how they will be enforced by the local governments. Portions of this document may be proved incorrect once the local governments begin enforcement and Price Paper is in no way legally responsible for the accuracy of this document. When in doubt, please seek the advice of a bonafide legal counsel.

We sincerely hope you found this informative. Price Paper will always do our best for our customers and diligently tries to protect our customer’s best interests by offering free advice and consulting to you, our valued customer. We have trained staff ready to assist you and answer questions while you transition away from foam. If you need help, please send an email to and one of our packaging experts will set up a meeting with you either by phone or in-person to discuss your options.


Your Friends at Price Paper and Twine Company

“The local source - Do you have the Big Yellow Truck?”

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