Polystyrene Ordinance

The Cambridge Polystyrene Ordinance took effect October 20, 2016. The ordinance affects all food and drink establishments that serve food or drink in single-use disposable service-ware. This includes but is not limited to cups, plates, bowls, hinged or lidded containers, straws, cup lids, and utensils. Food establishments such as restaurants and fast food stores, grocery and convenience stores, beverage retailers, and other retailers must comply with this ordinance. Food establishment shall include any fixed or mobile place whether permanent, transient, temporary, private, public, or non-profit or any other place in which food or drink is prepared for sale or for service to the public routinely. 

The purpose of the Ordinance is to advance solid waste reduction and protect the health of Cambridge citizens. Polystyrene food and beverage containers are expensive to recycle and are not biodegradable. Studies have shown that polystyrene food containers may leach harmful chemicals into food and beverages. 

With this change, we encourage businesses to explore ways to reduce waste and save money. The City recommends food establishments consider reusable service-ware for consumption on their premises. For example, encourage reusable mug use for coffee. Switch from disposable plates to reusable plates. 

When you must use single-use service-ware, switch to other recyclable options. Recyclable plastic products include Polyethylene (PET or #1 plastic), High Density Polyethylene (HDPE or #2 plastic), or Polypropylene (PP or #5 plastic). Aluminum and paper products are also OK. 

To report non-compliance or issues at a Food Establishment, please use this form.

What is polystyrene? 
Polystyrene is a type of plastic that includes expanded polystyrene (“Styrofoam”) and rigid polystyrene (all other #6 plastics). Common examples of rigid polystyrene could include cup lids, plastic condiment cups, Solo® cups, and clamshell food containers. How can I tell if the food containers we give to customers are made of polystyrene? Polystyrene products are marked with the abbreviation “PS” or a “6” inside the chasing arrows recycling symbol.


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