In July, a statewide polystyrene foam ban that would have harmed Maine’s small businesses and restaurants was shut down by Governor Paul LePage. But some towns are still considering a ban within their own municipalities. Cape Elizabeth’s ordinance committee is drafting a proposal to ban polystyrene foam within the town, and a decision on this ordinance is expected soon.
Under this ordinance, retailers in Cape Elizabeth will be barred from not only selling food or beverages in foam containers, but from selling the containers themselves. Polystyrene foam—not to be confused with Styrofoam, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company—is most commonly used for hot beverage cups, bowls, takeout containers, and lids, but is also used for egg cartons, meat trays, and lightweight coolers.
A foam ban would hurt small business
When Maine considered a statewide ban in July, the Maine Restaurant Association was adamant that this ban would negatively impact restaurant and small business owners. Alternatives are much more expensive for restaurant owners who already operate on thin profit margins. Spending more on costly alternatives would lead to either price increases for customers, or the restaurant owners taking on the additional costs themselves.
Furthermore, foam alternatives are simply not as effective. Polystyrene foam keeps hot food hot and cold food cold better than any other known material. Foam food containers also a much more durable and reliable material for consumers.
Foam recycling is the right choice
Rather than an outright ban, the town should explore a more effective solution. In cities, towns, and communities across the country, people are recycling their polystyrene at drop-off and curbside locations. Recycled foam is used to make everyday products like picture frames, rulers, garden nursery trays, and ballpoint pens.
As Cape Elizabeth explores its polystyrene options, the preferences of the town’s restaurants and small businesses should not be ignored.