On February 1, 2017, legislators in Rhode Island introduced a bill that would ban expanded polystyrene food containers, as well as plastic bags and water bottles. This ban, referred to as the Plastic Waste Reduction Act, would bar all retailers and restaurants in Rhode Island from using foam foodservice products such as coffee cups, lids, clamshell take out containers, and plates. If the bill becomes law, the Plastic Waste Reduction Act would be put in effect on January 1, 2018.
The proposed ban could have disastrous consequences for restaurants and small businesses across the state. Many businesses in Rhode Island rely on the durability and cost-effectiveness of foam in order to meet their customers’ needs. Without foam, restaurant owners would have to resort to using more expensive alternatives, which would result in them either having to incur sunken costs or increase prices.
Those arguing in favor of the ban claim that a ban is the environmentally friendly thing to do. But, that’s just not the case. Polystyrene foam can be, and is, recycled in communities all across the country. In fact, RI Resource Recovery Corporation in Providence County collects clean foam foodservice products for free for anyone living in Rhode Island.
Polystyrene foam, also referred to as plastic #6, can be recycled into a number of consumer goods. Many companies make items like picture frames, garden nursery trays, interior crown molding, and rulers from recycled polystyrene.
Rather than banning foam, a more logical alternative would be focusing on recycling education in Rhode Island, and expanding collection efforts in the state.