Styrofoam Alternatives

Better World Betty Polystyrene Product Alternatives

Alternatives to #6 polystyrene and expanded polystyrene (“styrofoam”) food service wares for in-house or take-out food include:

1) Durable reusables. Traditional plates, bowls and cups made of glass or ceramic, stainless steel utensils.

2) Biodegradable, compostable paper or plant products:

3) Reusable #5 polypropylene plastic containers. These are usually provided using a deposit and refund system. The following brand of reusables are currently in use at UVA dining facilities:

For more information on biodegradable and compostable products certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), visit the BPI website or check with your composter about the products that work best in your local composting system.

The local composting business in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area is Black Bear Composting.


Want to ask your favorite local restaurant to stop using styrofoam containers? Try sending them our letter! Copy and paste the letter below, or download it here!  Better World Betty - Anti-Styrofoam Letter

Dear Local Business Owner,

Better World Betty is a local grassroots organization dedicated to empowering people and businesses with the tools they need to be sustainable. As patrons of your restaurant and local citizens who care about the environmental work of Better World Betty, we have noticed your use of polystyrene (PS/#6) and/or styrofoam (EPS/expanded polystyrene) food service wares.

We wanted to make you aware of our concern with using these products. Several communities in the United States have banned polystyrene and styrofoam use for food service, due to their environmental and human health impacts.

  • Polystyrene and styrofoam are leading components of litter throughout our area and the world, polluting streets, parks, waterways, beaches and the oceans.
  • Styrofoam and polystyrene are made from styrene, a liquid petrochemical. Oil and gas used to make styrene are non-renewable resources and their extraction harms the environment.
  • In 2011, styrene was identified by the National Institutes of Health in its 12th Report on Carcinogens as a “reasonably anticipated” carcinogen in humans. Styrofoam and polystyrene containers readily leach styrene into food and liquids.
  • Styrofoam and polystyrene plastics contaminated by food and drink are not recycled. Discarded polystyrene and styrofoam cups, clamshells, utensils, etc. are landfilled or incinerated.

In light of these facts, we would be grateful if you would consider alternatives to polystyrene and styrofoam for your food service ware.

Where feasible, the best alternatives are traditional reusable products such as stainless steel flatware, ceramic and glass dishes and cups. For take-out, better alternatives are certified compostable products that meet Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) standards for composting and can be collected for composting by Black Bear Composting, or reusable to-go boxes. Please check out our website for a list of recommended alternatives.

Thank you for showing that you care about the health of your clients and community by adopting environmentally preferable alternatives to polystyrene and styrofoam.