Foam Bans May Do More Harm than Good

There have been ongoing efforts in California, Chicago, and New York to ban polystyrene foam products, but these potential bans are being disputed by environmentalist and industry experts who claim that removing foam products can cause damage in the long run.

A recent report shows that foam bans can have a negative impact on the environment. The report “Impact of Plastics Packaging on Life Cycle Energy Consumption & Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the US & Canada Substitution Analysis” illustrates that replacing light-weight packing with alternative materials would result in 4.5 times more packaging weight, leading to an 80 percent increase in energy use.

The report also stated that foam is the best shipping material because of shock absorption and thermal protection. For example, shipping wine with foam material protects the wine bottles from breaking and temperature fluctuations during transit. Foam shipping containers are also used for frozen foods and temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals.

An alternative to banning foam products is to continue to raise awareness about recycling options. A report constructed by Franklin Associates for the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association shows an increase in foam recycling. There have been numerous outreach programs to increase awareness and the programs have seen good return. The EPS Industry Alliance reported total domestic expanded polystyrene (EPS) recycling grew to 127.3 million pounds in 2013, and the recycling rate has increased by 35 percent since 2012. Corporations such as Chick-Fil-A, Walmart and Best Buy have successfully created EPS recycling initiatives and in turn reduced their environmental footprint.

Recycled foam is used in a variety of products, such as picture frames, hangers, interior moldings, and surfboards. As of now, the supply of recycled foam products is not enough to fill the demand. EPS recycling initiatives are continuing to raise awareness to bring in more foam and minimize harm on the environment.

Source: Solid Waste & Recycling Magazine

Foam Bans