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Polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) Ban

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What is Expanded Polystyrene and why is the City Prohibiting the Use of it? 

As of January 1, 2018, Code Enforcement will begin issuing citations for violations of the Ordinance.  To report a possible violation, please email

 EPS Ban                                                          EPS Ban

 Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is a petroleum by-product that is neither readily recyclable nor biodegradable. Products made from EPS, more commonly known as Styrofoam™ can include, but are not limited to plates, bowls, cups, container lids, trays, coolers, ice chests, food containers, etc. These products are designed to be disposable, and therefore have a short useful life, sometimes of only minutes. However, it takes several decades to hundreds of years for EPS to deteriorate in the environment or landfill. Instead, it merely breaks down into smaller pieces that litter the City's streets, parks, and open spaces. Eventually these pieces make their way to the nearby watershed and ultimately our beaches and ocean waters, which endangers birds and sea life that mistake the EPS for pieces of food. Ingestion of EPS can result in reduced appetite and nutrient absorption and death by starvation in the animals that consume the debris.

While EPS is technically "recyclable", there is to date, no meaningful recycling of EPS due to high food contamination rates and a very weak market to clean, handle and process the material. Alternative products, which are biodegradable, reusable and/or recyclable are readily available at a reasonable cost.

The City of South Pasadena has a duty to protect the natural environment for present and future generations and joins over 80 other California cities in banning the use and sale of EPS single-use food service ware at businesses within the City. The City Council declares that it is in the best interest of the public health, safety, and welfare of its residents and visitors to reduce litter and pollutants in the City. The goal of the Ordinance is to promote the replacement of expanded polystyrene items with reusable, recyclable, or compostable alternatives whenever possible thus helping remove it from the waste stream. To help lead by example, the City has ceased purchasing products that are made of expanded polystyrene.

Who Does the Prohibition Apply To?

  • City Vendors or Contractors in City Facilities
    • No person shall distribute or sell prepared food in any Disposable Food Service Ware made of EPS at city facilities. This is limited to use of city facilities for which a person has entered into an agreement with the city to rent, lease or otherwise occupy a city facility.
  • Restaurants, Retail Vendors, Food Packagers, Retail Food Vendors, or Non-Profit Food Providers
    • No restaurant, retail vendor, food packager, retail food vendor, or non-profit food provider shall provide prepared food to its customers in Disposable Food Service Ware made of EPS; or purchase, obtain, keep, distribute, sell for home or personal use, or give, serve, or otherwise provide to customers any Disposable Food Service Ware made of EPS.
  • Food Providers
    •  No food provider shall distribute or sell prepared food in any Disposable Food Service Ware made of EPS at any location within the city, unless it is wholly encapsulated or encased within a more durable material, as exempted in South Pasadena Municipal Code (SPMC) Section 16.43. This specifically includes, but is not limited to cups, plates, bowls, clamshells and other products intended primarily for food service use, as well as coolers, containers and, ice chests. 
  • Special Event Permittees and their Subcontractors
    •  No person shall use or distribute Disposable Food Service Ware made of EPS at city-sponsored events, city co-sponsored events, city-managed concessions or city meetings.

Are there any Exceptions?

- Food items which are packaged outside the boundaries of the city, provided that such food is not altered, packaged or repackaged within the city limits;

- Food packaging that is used for raw, butchered, ground, chopped, or sliced meats, fish, and/or poultry sold from a butcher case or similar retail appliance for subsequent preparation;

- Food packaging required to be purchased under a contract entered into one year prior to the effective date of this Ordinance is exempt. This exemption will apply up to one (1) year from the effective date of this Ordinance;

- Food brought by individuals for personal consumption to city facilities, including but not limited to city parks, and centers, provided that the city facility is being used for individual recreation or similar purposes and such facility use is not part of a larger organized event that is otherwise governed by SPMC Section 16.42 (B-E);

- EPS coolers and ice chests that are intended for reuse are exempt from the provisions of this Chapter. 

When is the Prohibition being Implemented?

Until October 2017, the City will engage in an educational campaign to allow contractors, business owners, etc. to transition away from EPS to reusable, recyclable, or compostable alternatives. From October 1 through December 31, 2017, the City will only issue warnings for violations of the Ordinance. On January 1, 2018, Code Enforcement will begin issuing citations for violations of the Ordinance. 

For more information on the EPS Food Service Ware Ban, please refer to the links below:

CalRecycle Venue Resource Page 

CalRecycle: Venue & Events Law (CA AB 2176) Information

South Pasadena Municipal Code 16.40 Article IV. Expanded Polystyrene Disposable Food Service Ware Ban

South Pasadena Expanded Polystyrene Disposable Food Service Ware Ban FAQ

Letter to Merchants


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