Illinois takes initial steps to phase out plastic foam foodware

Media Contacts
Abe Scarr

State Director, Illinois PIRG; Energy and Utilities Program Director, PIRG

Momentum building as legislature passes ban in state facilities, Oak Park becomes first municipality to ban foam

Legislation to phase out the use of single-use plastic polystyrene foam foodware in state facilities passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly last week and is being sent to Gov. Pritzker for his signature. Also last week, Oak Park became the first municipality to pass a ban on polystyrene foam foodware as part of a broader ordinance tackling single-use plastic waste.

The EPA estimates that Americans throw away almost 70 million plastic foam cups every day. Twenty-two million pounds of plastic enter the Great Lakes each year and just over half of that ends up in Lake Michigan alone. Already, eight states and roughly 200 cities and municipalities have enacted bans on polystyrene foam containers.

Under the state legislation passed last week, sponsored by state Sen. Laura Fine and state Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, no state agency may purchase polystyrene foam foodware after January 1, 2025, and no vendor with a state contract may distribute any foam products to customers after January 1, 2026. Under the ordinance passed by Oak Park, restaurants may not sell or distribute polystyrene foam foodware after January 1, 2024.

The Coalition for Plastic Reduction, a coalition of more than 35 organizations across Illinois championed legislation that would phase out foam foodware statewide starting in 2024. That legislation passed the state House but not the state Senate. The coalition plans to push for the full statewide ban in next year’s legislative session.

In response to the momentum to phase out plastic foam foodware in Illinois, state and local leaders, and advocates said:

“Last week both the state of Illinois and my home community of Oak Park took important steps toward a more environmentally responsible future. There is growing awareness that better alternatives exist and I’m proud to be part of that change,” said Illinois Senate President Don Harmon (D–Oak Park).

“I hear from constituents in my district regularly about their desire for the Illinois General Assembly to adopt a stronger leadership role in reducing plastic waste in our state, particularly single-use plastic,” said State Sen. Laure Fine. “It has been wonderful working with passionate advocates, stakeholders, and my colleagues to get SB58 passed, and I’m already looking forward to the next policy step we can take on this important issue.”

“Since being elected to the Illinois General Assembly, I’ve been invested in passing legislation that helps clean our waterways and eliminate single-use plastic waste,” said State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz. “I am proud of this step forward on reducing toxic polystyrene pollution and am already looking at how we can take this policy solution another step forward next year.”

“Oak Park is proud to be at the forefront of the movement to end the use of polystyrene foam foodware in Illinois. With action at the state level as well, there is momentum for the complete removal of these harmful products in the near future,” said Oak Park Village President Vicki Scaman.

 “The time has come to tackle plastic pollution, and we are excited to see momentum in Illinois towards phasing out single-use plastic foam foodware. On behalf of the Coalition for Plastic Reduction, we celebrate these important first steps, thank Sen. Fine and Rep. Gong-Gershowitz for their leadership, and look forward to passing a statewide ban on foam fooodware in 2024,” said Illinois PIRG Director Abe Scarr.