Costa Rica bans Styrofoam

Expanded polystyrene is widely considered harmful for the environment.

Costa Rica will ban the use of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, more commonly known by the trademark “Styrofoam,” beginning this weekend as a law approved in 2019 takes effect.

The law reads as follows:

The importation into the national territory, the commercialization and the delivery of expanded polystyrene containers in any commercial establishment is prohibited.

Expanded polystyrene is widely considered harmful for the environment because it is not easily biodegradable, crumbles into small pieces that pollute the ocean (and land), and may negatively impact health.

When he signed the bill into law in 2019, President Carlos Alvarado called the initiative “a shared national vision that demonstrates the capacity of Costa Rica.”

“If a few years ago they had told us that we would eliminate Styrofoam from circulation, we would not have believed it,” he added.

That said, Styrofoam won’t disappear from Costa Rica entirely — and not just because expanded polystyrene doesn’t decompose. The law allows certain exceptions to the ban, including for packaging household appliances, certain industrial uses and situations in which there are no viable alternatives.

Costa Rica prides itself on its eco-friendly reputation, though its high use of agrochemicals and single-use plastics (among other things) complicate that image. Still, restricting the use of expanded polystyrene is a small step toward a healthier planet.


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