Wyden, Merkley and colleagues introduce bill to phase out single-use foam containers, packing ‘peanuts,’ coolers


Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said Wednesday they have joined Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland to introduce legislation that would phase out single-use plastic foam food service products, “loose fill” such as packing peanuts, and non-medical disposable coolers – materials known to harm human health and pollute waterways. 

The Farewell to Foam Act they introduced along with Senate and House colleagues would reduce plastic foam pollution nationwide by requiring food service providers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to transition their stock of expanded polystyrene products such as foodware, coolers, and loose packing fill to alternative materials by January 1, 2026.

“Communities in Oregon and across the nation suffer from the effects of pollution, and eliminating one of the contributors from single use plastic foam containers is a major step in improving public health,“ Wyden said. “There are plenty of sustainable alternatives that can replace single-use foam containers. Switching would benefit our communities and help tackle climate change at the same time.”

“This single-use, dangerous plastic foam product is not recyclable, not biodegradable, and pollutes our planet – but also is known to cause increased rates of cancer and disrupt the human endocrine system,” said Merkley, who this year led the Senate’s first ever hearings on plastics. “Single-use plastics are a human health crisis, a crisis that can be solved by producing and using more sustainable alternatives.”

The bill also would authorize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to impose escalating penalties on establishments that violate the expanded polystyrene prohibition during one calendar year: $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second, and $1,000 for the third and subsequent violations. Service providers and retailers with annual revenue less than $1 million and manufacturers and distributors with annual revenue less than $5 million will not be penalized more than once during any seven-day period.

The legislation provides exemptions for expanded polystyrene material used for medical, industrial, or safety purposes.

The legislation was led by Senator Van Hollen, D-Md, and U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas. Along with Wyden and Merkley, the bill also was co-sponsored in the Senate by the U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Angus King, I-Maine, Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Peter Welch, D-Vt.

The text of the bill is here.