Economic Impact

The foam industry provides thousands of jobs and saves schools, businesses, consumers, and government agencies millions of dollars every year. Polystyrene foam benefits New England by offering superior value, increased efficiency, and strong economic solutions across the region.

A foam ban in New England would kill jobs by increasing costs on local businesses, but a refocused emphasis on recycling would create more jobs and fuel the economy. Recycled polystyrene is extremely valuable because of its versatility. Once it’s cleaned, ground down, and heated, manufacturers nationwide can use polystyrene for insulation, as the base product of windmill blades, and as a major component of solar paneling.

The state of Maine is currently considering a foam ban. This ban, LD 468, would be damaging to the economy – raising food and packaging prices – and would negatively impact Maine’s business owners and consumers. Foam is 100% recyclable, and banning its production for environmental reasons in favor of more expensive materials is economically irresponsible. Rather than banning foam production, Maine should invest in a foam recycling program that will not only benefit the environment, but will allow a superior, less-expensive product to remain in use throughout Maine.

Foam recycling programs have saved some schools between 20-40% on material collection fees.[ii]

A potential Maine foam ban would also hurt school districts. For instance, many of Maine’s school districts use foam lunch trays because they can realize significant savings – a foam tray costs considerably less than a compostable tray. [i] According to the Portland School Department’s food service director, “cost quadrupled when the district decided to use paper lunch trays instead of polystyrene trays, going from 3 cents a tray to 12 cents.” By investing in students instead of cafeteria trays, Maine’s schools can better serve their communities.

manufacturing plant

Foam products help New England’s restaurants stay in business. From fresh Rhode Island clams to Vermont maple syrup, New England’s local cuisine is a cultural treasure, offering locals and tourists alike an authentic culinary experience. Many restaurants operate on razor-thin profit margins and foam products offer them an affordable and effective food storage solution. A polystyrene foam ban could cost some New England restaurant owners up to tens of thousands of dollars per year.

Foam is far more economical than alternative materials. Food-grade polystyrene containers are generally 2 to 3 times less expensive than disposable paperboard products and reusable foodservice items. These strong foam containers provide excellent insulation at a cost-effective price and allow hardworking New England business owners — already facing higher prices for food, fuel, and everyday products — to save money in a challenging economic climate.

[i] Kelly Puente, Recyclable Foam Trays a Cure for Long Beach Schools’ Headache, PRESS-TELEGRAM, May 19, 2011, available at http://www.presstelegram.com/ci_18100171?source=rv.

[ii] Franklin Associates, Ltd. Final Peer-Reviewed Report: Life Cycle Inventory of Polystyrene Foam, Bleached Paperboard, and Corrugated Paperboard Foodservice Products (Prepared for The Polystyrene Packaging Council, March 2006).