Angela Logomasini, a Senior Fellow for the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, wants to ensure that the facts are straight when it comes to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed foam ban. In an article penned for the International Women’s Forum website iwf.org, Logomasini explains that polystyrene foam, specifically foam cups, have less of an environmental impact than its costly alternatives. Polystyrene foam is often referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, and makes up many forms of foodservice items used throughout New York City such as takeout containers and cups.
According to the evidence gathered by Logomasini, in many cases polystyrene foam cups are more energy efficient than both its paper and ceramic alternatives. As explained through a “classic” lifecycle study conducted by University of Victoria professor Martin B. Hocking, energy requirements measured for the lifecycles of foam, paper and ceramic cups proved that “foam cups were far more energy efficient than paper cups and even more energy efficient than ceramic cups that were used less than 1,006 times.” This means that for a ceramic cup to be more energy efficient than a foam cup it would have to be used more than 1,006 times.
Logomasini also cites a study released by Franklin Associates that reviewed the lifecycles of foam packaging and equivalent paper products. According to the study, “the average 16-ounce polystyrene cup uses a third less energy, produces 50 percent less solid waste by volume, and releases a third less of greenhouse gases than does a 16-ounce paper cup with a sleeve.” The Franklin study also states that polystyrene products generally require 20 to 30 percent less water across their lifecycles than paper alternatives.
Another misconception about polystyrene foam is that it is not able to be recycled or reused. Dart Container Corporation is an organization hoping to debunk this myth through technology it is implementing throughout the U.S. Dart makes discarded polystyrene foam usable for manufacturers by compressing it to a fraction of its original size so that it’s then able to be processed and used in the production of new goods. This technique removes polystyrene foam waste from landfills, as well as reintroduces a product at the end of its life back into the consumer market.