In Gloucester, Massachusetts, City Councilor Melissa Cox filed a proposal to ban small businesses, restaurants and other food service providers from using foam cups and food containers. Councilor Cox believes she is doing the best thing for the environment; however, banning foam, or more technically, polystyrene or foam #6, will only result in a large problems. Popular alternatives such as paper cups are more likely to end up in landfills than their foam counterparts. Moreover, polystyrene foodservice products make up less than 1% by both weight and volume of landfill waste.
The clear solution is to institute foam recycling. Foam recycling takes used polystyrene and transforms it into products we use everyday such as DVDs, picture frames, surfboards, and more. Throughout the US, foam is recycled daily at numerous facilities. Six foam recycling centers currently operate in the State of Massachusetts.
The environment is not the only thing that would suffer if a foam ban went into effect. The economic health of the small restaurant businesses in Gloucester would also feel a pinch. Peter Zappa, owner and operator of The Causeway Restaurant on Essex Avenue, said “officials and residents should realize that a shift away from foam food containers — which The Causeway uses regularly for takeout meals and for customers to take home leftovers from its famously large portions — toward costly containers would almost certainly have to be passed on to customers.” He said he could see the polystyrene ban adding anywhere from $12,000 to $14,000 to his annual costs. This is an astronomical cost to small business owners everywhere whose businesses are based solely on minuscule profit margins.
By implementing foam recycling, small business owners like Zappa will not have to raise prices, or face lower margins because of a ban. Instead, they can become a part of the initiative to encourage customers to recycle foam. Hopefully, Councilor Cox is aware of the alternatives to the costly and misguided proposal to ban foam. Municipal officials in Massachusetts should make a collective effort to properly dispose of polystyrene at recycling facilities preserving local businesses and the environment at the same time.
Sources: Gloucester Times