With the slow economy of the last decade, small business owners and restaurateurs all over the nation have felt the pinch. Greater regulation of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam across parts of the United States has added to the financial burden of small restaurants, diners, and takeout establishments everywhere. However, in San Diego, restaurant owners are standing up to the politicians and bureaucrats and doing their part to implement foam recycling as an alternative to foam regulations or restrictions.
Polystyrene foam food containers are such a big part of our daily lives. They protect our hands from scolding coffee and unlike paper cups, they don’t need a cardboard sleeve to make them comfortable to hold. Foam food containers also keep our takeout insulated and warm until it’s ready to eat. Not only is EPS foam more practical, it is an economical alternative for restaurants whose success is already predicated on very slim profit margins.
Unfortunately, many cities across the country are now demanding that paper cup and food packaging alternatives replace foam. These demands are largely driven by misinformation surrounding polystyrene foam’s safety and recyclability. The truth: foam has been found safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use for food and beverages. Moreover, the material can be recycled. Millions of pounds of foam are recycled yearly in the US. Recycled foam foodservice products can be reprocessed into building insulation, plastic lumber, and hundreds of other consumer goods and products. Dart Container Corporation, a leader in foam production and recycling, recycles enough energy each year to heat over 105,000 homes.
Another common misconception is that foam is filling up our landfills; however, foam foodservice products makes up less than 1% by both weight and volume of our landfill waste. Those same consumers also think paper cups are biodegradable in landfills, when in reality most modern landfills retard biodegradation by removing sunlight, oxygen, and water. Biodegradation is undesirable in a landfill because of the generation of methane gas and leachate.
In sum, the San Diegans who are fighting for foam recycling recognize the beneficial impact it will have not only on their local economy, but on the environment. Hopefully, the rest of the nation will follow suit and examine the facts before turning to over-regulation of a product that helps our local restaurants keep their doors open.