Unfortunately for local businesses and recycling aficionados, the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is considering a ban of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam food containers. Councilman Leland Cheung, who sponsored the foam ban resolution, bases his decision on creating a sense of unity in the community. However, the Councilman fails to consider that a ban on polystyrene foam has a negative economic impact on local business and creates a missed opportunity to expand the city’s recycling efforts.
Steve Clark, the director of Government of Affairs for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, fears that an outright ban of an entire category foam products would create economic hardship for local restaurateurs. He cautioned that a “city by city approach is not the most efficient way to create regulation. The resulting checkboard of what is permitted in one city to another is problematic for operators.” In addition, a $300 fine would be imposed for possessing polystyrene foam containers in violation of the ordinance, a steep price tag for Cambridge businesses.
As an alternative to the ban, the Massachusetts Restaurant Association recommends adding to Cambridge’s foam recycling program. Not only is recycling EPS foam possible, millions of pounds are recycled weekly. Recycled foam is made into consumer goods that are used every day such as DVD cases, picture frames, toys, glue, and office supplies. In addition, expanded polystyrene is recycled to produce many building materials such as wood-alternative products. Further, there are currently five foam recycling centers in the State of Massachusetts, and all the locations are equally accessible to individuals and businesses.
The Cambridge foam ban also neglects the fact that paper alternatives do not provide a more environmentally sustainable alternative to EPS foam. In fact, foam foodservice products make up less than 1% by both weight and volume of our landfill waste. Most consumers don’t realize that more paper cups end up in landfills than foam cups. From a manufacturing standpoint, polystyrene foam containers consume less energy than paper containers and have lower atmospheric emissions.
Hopefully, Councilman Cheung’s resolution will be rejected in favor of a sensible polystyrene recycling plan that will have less of a negative impact on the community. A system of foam recycling has a beneficial long term impact, including less waste overall, lower costs for local businesses and restaurateurs, and job creation for the State of Massachusetts. Cambridge has the opportunity to not only continue the good work that foam recycling centers around the State have started, but by overturning the resolution, the city could become a leader in the region.
Source: Boston Globe