Beyond Plastic

Los Angeles ban on foam cups and takeout containers now in effect

Félix Juan Gerónimo Beltré |

As of April 23rd, the city of Los Angeles now prohibits the sale and distribution of products made of polystyrene foam.  The new ordinance makes Los Angeles the largest city in California to restrict plastic foam containers, joining more than 100 cities that have already taken similar action. 

Polystyrene, commonly referred to as Styrofoam, can take hundreds of years to fully degrade and can’t be recycled, which means that every piece ever made is still out there clogging our landfills, littering our streets, and polluting our environment. Plastic foam is frequently among the 10 most commonly picked up items at beach cleanups.

In addition to the environmental impact, polystyrene also poses a risk to public health. Harmful chemicals from foam cups and takeout containers can enter the human body from food and beverages. The World Health Organization recently upgraded its rating of styrene –the chemical building block for polystyrene– from “possibly carcinogenic” to “probably carcinogenic.”

Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our environment and harm public health for hundreds of years.  That’s why CALPIRG and other organizations campaigned to get the city of Los Angeles to ban foam containers, winning the unanimous support of the city council in 2022. 

The LA foam ban took effect in 2023 for large food facilities and retail establishments, and now is expanded to all other businesses. 

Action in Los Angeles to ban polystyrene foam is expected to have ripple effects across California and the country. As the second biggest city in the country, the city of Los Angeles is sending a message to consumers, companies, and leaders across all 50 states that the best solution for reducing plastic waste is to turn off the tap and stop making plastic items in the first place. 

And the millions of Los Angeles residents will experience cleaner parks, streets, beaches and waterways, decreased exposure to toxic materials for humans and wildlife, and less overall waste choking our planet.

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