While New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has suggested implementing a ban on foam to reduce the amount of waste in landfills, foam foodservice items are lightweight and effective for consumers, and are often the best choice from an environmental and economic perspective.
Foam is a versatile material most commonly used in disposable foodservice supplies, such as cups, and protective packaging material.
Polystyrene foam is generally a recyclable product, and its lightweight structure creates less waste volume in landfills. Additionally, foam foodservice items offer an insulation benefit to consumers not provided by paper products. Because of this, consumers often double their paper cups or use an extra paper sleeve to avoid burns. This causes even more solid waste to be sent to landfills, counteracting the original reasoning for the proposed foam ban. [ii] Many cities throughout the U.S. have implemented polystyrene foam recycling programs to remove the waste from landfills altogether. Recycled PS foam can be used in the production of new consumer goods, such as picture frames and crown molding.
According to a study produced by Franklin Associates, foam cups produce 50% less waste by volume than its most common paper alternatives. [i]
From an economic perspective, foam is often the most cost effective choice for business owners. Expected to be impacted the most by the increased supply costs should the proposed ban take effect are locally owned restaurants, more than 90% of which are identified as small businesses. This has the potential to impact the bottom line of restaurants that employ over 137,000 New Yorkers. [iii] [ii] In addition to the economic impact this proposed foam ban would have on New York City business owners and consumers, the livelihood of many individuals would be at risk. Some 1,200 manufacturing jobs throughout New York State would be in seriously jeopardy should this ban be imposed. [ii]
If the proposed foam ban were to go into effect, it would cost businesses and entities throughout New York City an estimated $91 million to replace their foam foodservice items with the lowest-priced alternatives.
Industry uses for polystyrene foam:
- Education: A typical foam food tray costs significantly less than a compostable tray – saving some school districts over a million dollars per year. [iv]
- Healthcare: Most hospitals use polystyrene foam products to minimize exposure to bacteria and other foodborne pathogens.
- Manufacturing: Polystyrene foam can be recycled and used in the manufacturing of new consumer goods, such as picture frames, crown molding and plant containers.
- Foodservice: Restaurants throughout New York City will see a $57 million increase in the costs of foodservice products should a ban on foam products take effect. [ii]
- Small Businesses: 90% of the restaurants in New York City are locally owned and considered small businesses. This segment will face the brunt of the burden should this ban take effect. [ii]
- Shipping: Because of its lightweight structure, polystyrene foam is a preferred protective packaging for use in shipping valuable items.
[i] Angela Logomasini, Foaming at the Mouth about Proposed Ban on Foam Cups, IWF.org, February 12, 2013; http://www.iwf.org/blog/2790530/Foaming-at-the-Mouth-about-Proposed-Ban-on-Foam-Cups
[ii] New Study Details Economic and Environmental Costs of NYC Polystyrene Ban, PRNEWSWIRE, March, 20, 2013; http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-study-details-economic-and-environmental-costs-of-nyc-polystyrene-ban-199167951.html
[iii] Jake Pearson, Call to ban polystyrene foam bugs some in NYC, The Columbus Dispatch, February 17, 2013; http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/national_world/2013/02/17/call-to-ban-polystyrene-foam-bugs-some-in-nyc.html
[iv] Kelly Puente, Recyclable Foam Trays a Cure for Long Beach Schools’ Headache, PRESS-TELEGRAM, May 19, 2011; http://www.presstelegram.com/ci_18100171?source=rv