On November 10, 2016, the city of Encinitas, CA, passed a citywide ban on polystyrene foam foodservice products. Polystyrene foam—not to be confused with Styrofoam, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company used mostly for insulation—is used most often for products like clamshell carryout containers, coffee cups, and lids.
The ban doesn’t go into effect until May, and small, independent, and family-owned restaurants are hoping that they can convince the City Council to reconsider the ban before it begins to hurt restaurants and their customers.
These restaurants are an important part of the Encinitas community, but the ban negatively affects these businesses, forcing them to spend more money on alternatives that are simply not as effective.
While these increased prices may sound small, they are substantial to restaurants that buy in large quantities — in some cases adding on tens of thousands of dollars a year in extra costs.
Likewise, polystyrene products are more reliable and durable than alternatives. Foam products, unlike some alternatives, keep hot food or drinks hot without burning your hands, and keep cold food and drinks cold without creating condensation.
The California Restaurant Association (CRA), represents nearly 22,000 restaurants across California, including many in Encinitas. The CRA is encouraging the leaders of the city to revisit the ban, and rather than ban foam products outright, embrace a comprehensive recycling program that will not only reduce waste and litter, but will not harm small restaurants.
Foam is already recycled in areas across the country, including cities and municipalities throughout California. Recycled polystyrene foam is used to make items like picture frames, rulers, garden nursery trays, and ballpoint pens.
The ban, scheduled to go into effect in early May will undoubtedly hurt small restaurant owners, and unproductively shift the conversation away from the feasibility of polystyrene foam recycling.