Since 2014, Albany County has enforced a ban on polystyrene foam food and beverage containers from restaurants and eateries with 15 or more establishments in the United States—think fast food restaurants and coffee franchises. However, the Albany County Legislature is now considering expanding the ban to all restaurants and eateries in the county.
Continuing this ban may end up creating more problems than resolving. A ban on this product can be detrimental to small business owners due to the high use of the product. Restaurant owners argue that without polystyrene foam, they would have to resort to more expensive containers which, in turn, would lead to an increase in prices for customers.
Polystyrene foam—not to be confused with Styrofoam, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company—is used most often for common products like clamshell carryout containers, egg cartons, and coffee cups. It can be easily identified by the #6 symbol that is stamped on its products.
The feasible alternative to banning the material is emphasizing a focus on recycling foam. Polystyrene foam is already recycled in select areas across the country. There’s even a polystyrene drop-off location right in Albany County. Shelter Enterprises in Cohoes accepts used polystyrene foam, and strives to develop new and innovative products using this material.
Aside from industry innovations, recycled polystyrene is most often used to create products like picture frames, interior crown molding, garden nursery trays, rulers, and ballpoint pens.
Recycling polystyrene can reduce solid waste, decrease our dependency on virgin resources, prevent pollution, save energy, protect the Earth’s atmosphere, and demonstrate sustainability.
The ban shouldn’t be expanded; it should be undone. Instead of a ban on the foam, more focus should be put on polystyrene recycling efforts. Polystyrene is a strong plastic that can be recycled and should be put to use and not put to an end.