On Tuesday, the Long Beach City Council voted to delay a foam ban at restaurants, grocers, and other retailers. Polystyrene foam—often mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company—is used most often for takeout containers, coffee cups, egg cartons, and meat trays. It can be easily identified by the #6 chasing arrows symbol that is stamped on the products.
The council’s vote extended the deadline for an ordinance to return to the chamber for a vote by 60 days, and included an additional outreach to small business owners. Restaurant owners argue that any foam ban would cost them more money, in turn forcing them to raise prices for customers. Many restaurants use polystyrene foam containers because they are more durable and dependable than alternatives.
Rather than banning the product outright, the city should consider focusing on recycling efforts.
Foam is already recycled in areas across the country. Recycled polystyrene foam is used to make items like rulers, surfboards, garden nursery trays, crown molding, and picture frames. Further, since polystyrene is a thermoplastic, it can be recycled over and over again.
Any ban will undoubtedly hurt small business owners and unproductively shift the conversation away from recycling, an important and feasible alternative.