Wednesday 26 January 2022

Use of styrofoam packaging is prohibited in Costa Rica as of August 7

Expanded polystyrene would only be allowed when necessary to preserve or protect products, in appliance packaging and for industrial use

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QCOSTARICA – Sodas, restaurants, retailers and other commercial establishments are prohibited from this Saturday, August 7, to deliver their products in expanded polystyrene, more commonly known as styrofoam (estereofón in Spanish) packaging.

Styrofoam is a material commonly used in food industry packaging due to its lightness, hygiene and low cost

The commercialization of containers with this material in the national territory is also prohibited.

Both limitations are provisions of the Law for the prohibition of expanded polystyrene, of July 2019, which, in turn, amended the Law for comprehensive waste management.

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The regulations prevent the importation, commercialization and delivery of containers, as well as containers, made from expanded polystyrene.

Although the reform was approved in 2019, a period of two years was given for these conditions to take effect, in order to give users of this material the opportunity to prepare.

The idea was that, during that time, the interested parties would look for more environmentally friendly productive alternatives to deliver their products.

According to the law, there are three specific exceptions in which the material may be used:

  1. For reasons of conservation or protection of the products
  2. When the use of alternative materials is not environmentally viable
  3. In packaging for household appliances and the like, and industrial uses


Restaurants and sodas (small eateries) are among the establishments most affected by the change. The main impact will be economic, since styrofoam is extremely cheap, explained Jorge Figueroa, from the Costa Rican Chamber of Restaurants and Related Products (Cacore).

However, the businessman added, they are aware that the change will benefit the environment.

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“The small sodas will resent it more than the big businesses, but it is something that must be followed, reducing these types of materials. There are many options, such as recyclable plastic, with different price ranges; Due to the demand, the material will lower the price. We agree, styrofoam is harmful to the environment and health ”, acknowledged Figueroa.

Styrofoam is a material commonly used in food industry packaging due to its lightness, hygiene and low cost. It is resistant to heat and humidity, does not absorb water and does not rot, therefore it cannot be degraded in the environment.

However, expanded polystyrene is also one of the major pollutants of rivers and seas, remaining for years in the ecosystem, causing damage to wildlife, turtles, fish and other animals that mistake it for food.

There are very few alternatives for the management of styrofoam, so most of this type of waste ends up in landfills, or in the worst case, in the environment.

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It is a material that cannot be reused, therefore the prohibition of importation and commercialization of this material will lead to a decrease in the pollution caused by this type of waste.

Another concern associated with polystyrene is styrene, its building block. Those who are exposed to styrene during its manufacture tend to have irritation to the skin, eyes, upper respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal effects. In addition, when they come into contact with food and drinks, they can cause damage to human health.

The law was approved in a second debate on June 13, 2019, and signed by the president, Carlos Alvarado, on July 15 of that same year.

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