While the city of Portland, Maine, has put together a task force to consider a ban on polystyrene foam products, one of the city’s leaders is speaking out about the potential consequences of such an action. Bill Becker, president of the Portland Community Chamber, has voiced his own concerns of the negative economic impact the ban would have on residents of the city in a letter to the Portland Press Herald. A ban on foam, a material commonly referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, would mean a ban on all foam foodservices items, such as restaurant takeout containers and coffee cups.
Foam items are used widely throughout Portland: hospitals, coffee shops, restaurants and grocery stores. While foam products are safe and sanitary for the consumer, they are also incredibly cost effective for the supplier, a fact that Becker claims Portland City Officials have not considered thoroughly. According to Becker, “Any proposed ban should be firmly supported by an empirical analysis of costs versus benefits for Portland’s consumers, businesses and environment. Unfortunately, based on the record before the council [today], the case supporting a ban is missing. Without a credible demonstration of net benefit to Portland, the ban remains premature.”
Becker also notes that state and federal regulators are more likely to be better-informed of the impacts of a foam ban at the economic and environmental levels than city officials. Evaluating this subject is a specialized task, so Becker believes cities should look to other levels of government for recommendations before making costly decisions. Federal agencies have yet to take any action on evaluating the issues surrounding foam bans and their economic impact, leading Becker to believe that the city should postpone the consideration of a ban until this occurs.
The economic burden caused by banning foam in Portland could be avoided altogether with the implementation of a foam recycling program. Dart Container Corporation, a manufacturer of foam items, has developed programs to responsibly dispose of these products. Dart’s CARE (Cups Are REcyclable) Program provides participants with a device to compress collected foam to a fraction of its original size. The compressed material is then sent to a manufacturer who recycles the mass into new consumer products, such as architectural molding and picture frames.
Source: Portland Press Herald