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Information about alternative products provided as City begins enforcement of ordinance

SOMERVILLE - Somerville restaurants and food-related businesses were sent a letter and fact sheet in August detailing the City's ban on the commercial use of expanded polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam or foam, along with information about alternative products those businesses can use and the penalties for violating the ordinance that are now in effect.

The ban affects restaurants, delis, food trucks and other food-related businesses, which are no longer allowed to use foam for cups, plates and carry-out containers. Alternatives include paper and cardboard, plastic, aluminum, biodegradable plastics and compostable materials. Businesses are being encouraged to contact their current vendors to see what alternative options are available. Many businesses in Somerville have already transitioned to foam container alternatives, and all are required to comply.

Beginning Oct. 1, Inspectional Services (ISD) will inspect for the use of prohibited foam food containers during pre-operational inspections, routine inspections and during food license renewals. A first violation of the foam ban will result in a warning, a second violation will result in a $100 fine, and third and subsequent violations will result in a $300 fine.

The Board of Aldermen unanimously passed the polystyrene ban ordinance in May 2013 prohibiting Somerville restaurants and food establishments from using polystyrene, which is not biodegradable or easily recyclable and contains an ingredient on the U.S. Department of Health's list of carcinogens.

"The City of Somerville is sharing in the commitment to reduce foam use-this year, Somerville Public Schools stopped using expanded polystyrene trays to serve meals," said Oliver Sellers-Garcia, City Director of Sustainability and Environment. "We look forward to working with our local businesses and encourage them to reach out with any questions they may have, so they can transition to other materials for their business."

"The Board of Aldermen passed this ordinance last year because of the impact expanded polystyrene has on our personal health and the health of the environment," said Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz, chairwoman of the Board of Aldermen's Legislative Matters subcommittee. "Our local businesses have been great partners with the City in reducing our impact on the environment, increasing our recycling and making Somerville a healthier city for all, and I know they will partner with us on this initiative too to rid our city of polystyrene."

For more information about the foam ban in Somerville and the fee schedule for violations, please visit, call 311 or contact the Office of Sustainability and Environment at 617-625-6600 ext. 5070. Questions regarding enforcement of this ordinance or other Board of Health regulations should be directed to the ISD Health Division at (617) 625-6600, ext. 4331. All information online is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole and Mandarin Chinese.

Styrofoam Recycling Day, Sat., Sept. 13
The City will host a Styrofoam Recycling Day on Saturday, Sept. 13 from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Department of Public Works, located at 1 Franey Rd. Businesses and residents are welcome to bring any unused or clean foam containers and packaging materials for recycling.


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