Misinformation, Stereotypes Influence Majority Foam Ban Decisions

When New York City passed a bill at the end of last year stating that polystyrene foam foodservice products could potentially be banned from use by restaurants and street vendors, many asked the question:

Why not just recycle the material?
This led to an amendment of the bill that gives the city and committed organizations through December 31, 2014 to prove that the foam products can, in fact, be recycled. Many wonder why this option wasn’t on the table from the beginning of city council conversations on the topic. Polystyrene foam is often mistakenly referred to as Stryofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, and makes up many of the single-use foodservice items, such as hot beverage cups and take-away containers, that consumers prefer.

According to experts in the fields of foam production and recycling, the answer to this query is the lack of knowledge surrounding foam recycling and the influence of those dispensing the misinformation. According to Michael Westerfield, corporate director of recycling programs at Dart Container Corporation, “Elected officials are hearing from a small, but very vocal portion of the population  that foam is not recyclable and that it is filling up landfills. Because this is a common perception, it makes sense to them to ban it.”

In truth, foam is technically recyclable and polystyrene foam items only account for one half of one  percent of all NYC’s residential waste.

An individual experienced in dealing with lawmakers and legislature regarding foam issues is Betsy Steiner, the executive director of the EPS Industry Alliance. Steiner notes that for many politicians passing potential bans such as the recent NYC amendment is not an environmental claim, but rather a voting numbers game, stating: “For a legislator to get up and say that they are doing something to save the environment gets them votes. Whether it actually benefits the environment or not is unimportant.” Because the amount of space polystyrene foam takes up in landfills is nominal compared to other disposable products, banning the foodservice items will actually not reduce the amount of waste sent to area landfills. Essentially, consumers will be swapping one type of single-use material for another. According to Steiner, “It’s a perception issue… They’re not reducing solid waste. So what are they accomplishing?”

Source: American Recycler

Foam Bans Foam Recycling