Medford Polystyrene Ordinance

Beginning July 1, 2023, Medford food establishments and city facilities are prohibited from dispensing prepared food to customers in disposable food service containers made from polystyrene. The full ordinance can be viewed at this link

What is polystyrene?

Also known as styrofoam, polystyrene is often used to make disposable food containers including plates, cups, bowls, and hinged or lidded containers. 

Why do businesses need to find an alternative to polystyrene?


  • Harms aquatic life if ingested
  • Pollutes waterways
  • Creates health risks from consuming aquatic wildlife that contains polystyrene microplastics
  • Limited recycling options for polystyrene containers and other polystyrene products.

While businesses are prohibited from distributing prepared food in polystyrene containers, individuals may still purchase and use these containers for personal use or for private functions on their property.

What are the alternatives?

Below are some examples of options businesses have when purchasing food containers.

  • Customer discounts for bringing your own to-go mug
  • Customers pay a deposit for reusable take- out containers or plates and then return to business for deposit
  • Customers pay an upfront cost for a reusable container and then receive a series of discounts, “earning back” the upfront cost (ex: Grainmaker in Somerville)

Click here for an extensive list of food container suppliers and to learn more about polystyrene alternatives.