Delaware bans polystyrene food containers, automatic giveaway of plastic straws

The state becomes the eleventh in the nation to outlaw the material. The law signed Tuesday takes effect July 1, 2025.
Delaware operators have until July 1, 2025, to find replacements for to-go containers like these. | Photo: Shutterstock

Restaurants in Delaware will have until July 1, 2025, to phase out their use of polystyrene takeout containers under a bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. John Carney.

The measure also prohibits foodservice operations from providing plastic coffee or cocktail stirrers and using plastic versions of the toothpick-like spears that hold together sandwiches or drink garnishes.

The new rules apply to restaurants, on-site foodservice operations like cafeterias, grocery stores and caterers. Convenience stores are not among the businesses listed as being affected.

Healthcare facilities are exempted from the ban on providing single-use straws, and other types of foodservice operations can provide the drinking aids upon request.

The measure makes Delaware the eleventh state to ban the use of single-use polystyrene clamshells, cups and other pieces of to-go packaging. Proponents of the new law noted that the neighboring states of Maryland and New Jersey have already outlawed the items.

Supporters say the law is needed because discarded polystyrene and plastic constitute much of Delaware’s roadside and seaside litter. They also note that recycling deflects only a small stream of the materials from landfills.

The law was initially opposed vehemently by the Delaware Restaurant Association, but the trade group softened its resistance after the bill was amended. Initially, an establishment that failed to comply with the rules stood a chance of loosing its operating license, but lawmakers dropped that provision at the association’s urging.

The law takes effect on July 1, 2025, and specifies that violators won’t be fined until the start of 2026. The penalties were not specified in the legislation.

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