Activists are hoping that they can make California the first state in the U.S. to initiate a statewide ban on polystyrene foam. However, it is unlikely that this will be happening anytime soon. Last month, the Legislature voted against a bill advocating for a foam ban on takeout containers statewide.
Matthew Sutton, a lobbyist for the California Restaurant Association, acknowledges the difficulty in which restaurant owners have with these bans. “Let’s increase and expand the infrastructure for recycling—not pick and choose products to ban,” Sutton said.
Foam is 100 percent recyclable. Therefore, instead of banning foam, we should focus on creating more recycling options. California should work towards educating those about waste and the positive outcomes of recycling.
Dart Container Corporation is a company that makes foam packaging as well as employs thousands of people across the country. Dart also operates or is partnered with more than 85 recycling programs to ensure that their product is disposed of properly.
Becky Warren, a Dart spokeswoman said, “A ban of this kind of product will not result in any reduction in trash or landfill waste.”
This is exactly right. Foam is not the problem. A person’s behavior is.
California’s Environmental Protection Agency conducted a report showing the difference between the plastic bag ban initiated in California in 2016, and foam container bans. The plastic bag ban resulted in less trash because people use reusable shopping bags. For a foam ban, businesses switch to another kind of disposable product, which can also be littered.
These alternative containers are significantly more expensive according to the California Restaurant Association. Plastic containers cost 84 percent more than foam and compostable paper containers cost 145 percent more than foam.
In the last decade, bills restricting disposable food packaging in California have failed more than a half-dozen times. Instead of enforcing a ban, we should promote something everyone can rally around, proper recycling. If we encourage better habits, then a ban will not be necessary.