Economic Impact

The foam industry provides thousands of jobs and saves schools, businesses, consumers, and government agencies millions of dollars every year. Polystyrene foam benefits California by offering superior value, increased efficiency, and strong economic solutions across the region, and since it’s typically produced locally, the California economy benefits.

Foam has an understated value in America. It lowers costs on local businesses, leading to more jobs, which fuel the state’s economy. Recycled polystyrene is extremely valuable because of its versatility. Once it’s recycled into pellets, manufacturers nationwide can use polystyrene for insulation.

California state school districts also rely on foam to keep costs down because a foam tray costs significantly less than popular alternatives. [i] By investing in education instead of cafeteria trays, the region’s schools can better serve their teachers, students, and communities.

Foam recycling programs have saved some schools between 20-40% on material collection fees. [iii]

And what’s more, one recycling program in Corona collects and recycles more than 1 million foam school lunch trays in the state each month. [ii]

Furthermore, foam products help California’s restaurants stay in business. From authentic Mexican food in Southern California to fresh seafood in the Bay Area, California offers locals and tourists alike an authentic culinary experience. However, many California restaurants operate on razor-thin profit margins and foam products offer them an affordable and effective food storage solution.

In California, the impact of a foam ban would estimate to an overall loss (measuring the direct, indirect, and induced effects) of nearly $1.4 billion in output, $335 million in earnings, and almost 8,000 jobs. It would also increase consumer spending on disposable foodservice products by about $376 million per year. [iv]

Foam is far more economical than alternative materials, as food-grade polystyrene containers are generally two to three times less expensive than the other options. Foam containers provide excellent insulation at a cost-effective price and allow hardworking California business owners – already facing higher prices for food, fuel, and everyday products – to save money in a challenging economic climate.

[i] Kelly Puente, Recyclable Foam Trays a Cure for Long Beach Schools’ Headache, PRESS-TELEGRAM, May 19, 2011, available at


[iii] Franklin Associates, Ltd. Final Peer-Reviewed Report: Life Cycle Inventory of Polystyrene Foam, Bleached Paperboard, and Corrugated Paperboard Foodservice Products (Prepared for The Polystyrene Packaging Council, March 2006).

[iv] U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Regional Multipliers: A User Handbook for the Regional Input-Output Modeling System (RIMS II). 1997