Why we support San Francisco’s ban on Styrofoam

As a family owned business we are not a big supporter of government induced bans, regulations, or any other mandate that puts restrictions or has a negative impact on any business. San Francisco’s recent ban on Styrofoam starting 1/1/2017 is one regulation we can agree with – and fully support.

Expanded polystyrene, (EPS), which is commonly known as “Styrofoam”, has multiple uses. Many of you handle it daily – used to hold your hot coffee every morning – or possibly packaging your “to go” order from a local restaurant. You also encounter this product when receiving a fragile shipment – with the worst, in my opinion, being the “peanuts” that always make a mess when opening the box.

Can Styrofoam be recycled?

In some cases, yes, and Miller Recycling does provide this service.  Many furniture distribution facilities and large warehouses recover it from their waste stream. Once it is collected, it requires densifying on site – using machines which compact the EPS or melt it. This is mandatory because EPS cannot be cost effectively recycled in loose form as its light weight makes handling and transporting prohibitive.

What’s so hard about recycling Styrofoam?

You are probably curious as to why we would be against a product that we handle, and recycle, hopefully at a profit.

EPS is VERY difficult to recover and recycle at a residential level. Have you ever encountered a location that uses this material, such as a coffee chain offering a way to easily collect and recycle it? No, because it is too costly.

Another negative factor is that Styrofoam material is not biodegradable. Other than plastic bags it is probably one of the top materials you see littering our environment.

What are the alternatives to Styrofoam?

Yes – paper cups, molded paper packaging, and even corn starch based “peanuts” are all readily available products that are biodegradable and made out of a renewable resource. (Corn starch peanuts easily dissolve in water.)

You may be asking why these products are not used – rather than EPS – eliminating the need for San Francisco to implement a ban?  Unfortunately it is based on cost – EPS type products are cheaper to purchase – and lighter to ship.

It is unfortunate that in 2016 – many companies will purchase packaging or products based strictly on cost – regardless of the environmental impact. Sometimes even the government implements regulations for the right reasons, and that make sense. This is one of them. We would support this becoming a nationwide regulation.

If your business creates EPS waste and you want to keep it out of the landfills, we may be able to help.  Contact us to discuss your company’s situation.