Foam Plastic #6 (Polystyrene)

Put in Garbage Cart/Bin

Expanded polystyrene is not recyclable through San Jose’s curbside program. This includes food containers such as insulated disposable cups, packing ‘peanuts’ and molded packaging material such as what might come with a large appliance.  Any of these items would go in the garbage.


To reduce its use, the City disallowed the use of foam food containers in 2015.  

Foam Food Container Ordinance

San José’s Foam Food Container Ordinance (Municipal Code Chapter 9.10, Part 17, fully effective as of January 1, 2015) requires all restaurants to use non-foam food service ware for both dine-in and takeout.

This ordinance allows restaurants to choose the best alternative for their business needs. Restaurants may also apply for unique packaging and financial hardship exemptions.

Learn more about the Foam Food Ordinance or read the Foam Food Ordinance (PDF) here.

Why did San José adopt a Foam Food Container Ordinance to ban expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam food service ware, commonly known as Styrofoam™?

San José’s Foam Food Container Ordinance aims to reduce a pervasive and persistent type of litter by banning food service ware made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. EPS foam is uniquely problematic when littered because it does not degrade. It breaks easily into tiny pieces, making it difficult to clean up. Those small pieces are often mistaken as food by fish and wildlife and are harmful to their health.

Litter impacts our communities and threatens water quality and wildlife in our local creeks and Bay. In 2009, 26 creeks in the Bay Area, including Guadalupe River and Coyote Creek in San José, were declared as impaired by trash by the State Water Resources Control Board. Since the ban was fully implemented, a 2015-2016 study by the Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program suggests that the EPS ban has significantly reduced the volume of foam food service ware in the stormwater system.


Help Prevent Litter

Plastic #6 is a lightweight material that easily finds its way into the environment, where it can leach toxic chemicals. Make sure plastic #6 doesn’t blow away by disposing of it properly.


Packing Peanuts Are Not Recyclable

Packing peanuts are generally not recyclable. There are many alternatives for recyclable packaging material. Find out how to dispose of packing peanuts.

Ways to Reduce

Reusable Packaging For Businesses

Check out Upstream’s catalog of reusable packaging and unpackaging innovators that provide ways for consumers to obtain products, mostly food and beverages, in returnable, reusable, or refillable packaging – or they deliver products to consumers unpackaged altogether.

Ways to Reuse

teddy bear

Reuse Foam at Home

Use foam to refill cushions or stuffed animals that have lost their loft.

Did You Know?

Plankton Eating Polystyrene

In the ocean, plastic is being consumed all the way down the food chain. For the first time ever, scientists have recorded plankton eating tiny polystyrene beads. Find out more at New Scientist.

Plastic in Our Bodies

Styrene, a component of polystyrene, has been found in 100 percent of human fat tissue samples dating back to 1986. It is known to cause cancer in animals, and suspected to be both cancerous for humans as well.