Sticky Note

Foam Food Ware . . . Time to 86?

NYC Polystyrene Ban

Last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed to ban polystyrene food ware throughout NYC. Plastic foam makes up an estimated 20,000 tons of the city’s annual waste, according to the mayor’s office. (Bloomberg News)
In his State of the City Address, Bloomberg stated, "We will work with Speaker Quinn and the City Council to adopt a law banning polystyrene foam food packaging from stores and restaurants".

If a law is passed to ban polystyrene food ware in NYC, numerous businesses will be affected, but especially restaurants and food service operations. With Bloomberg's track record in getting other health and environmental laws passed, this proposal is probably just a matter of time.

Not A New Idea
Of course, Mayor Bloomberg's proposal is not a new idea in the U.S. Many cities have banned polystyrene food containers. Freeport, Maine banned polystyrene food containers way back in 1990. The ordinance states:

On and after January 1, 1990, no retail food vendor shall serve or sell prepared food and no food packager shall package meat, eggs, bakery products or other food in polystyrene foam (PSF) containers;

The ordinance also banned retailers from selling foam containers: On and after January 1, 1990, no vendor in the Town of Freeport who sells tangible personal property at retail shall sell polystyrene foam food or beverage containers.

Numerous cities on the West Coast have had polystyrene bans in place for many years so restaurants and foodservice operators have learned to manage their businesses without polystyrene.

Although NYC's passage of this law would not affect all our readers, we felt that "Now Is The Time" for all restaurant and foodservice operators to consider the impact that foam food ware has on our landfills and the environment.

According to the U.S. EPA,
Polystyrene is the fourth largest thermoplastic by production volume. It is used in applications in the following major markets (listed in order of consumption): packaging, consumer/institutional goods, electrical/electronic goods, building/construction, furniture, industrial/machinery, and transportation.

Packaging applications using crystal polystyrene biaxial film include meat and vegetable trays, blister packs, and other packaging where transparency is required. Extruded polystyrene foam sheets are formed into egg carton containers, meat and poultry trays, and fast food containers requiring hot or cold insulation.

Solid polystyrene sheets are formed into drinking cups and lids, and disposable packaging of edibles. Injection molded grades of polystyrene are used extensively in the manufacture of cosmetic and personal care containers, jewelry and photo equipment boxes, and photo film packages.(1)

The effect of polystyrene food ware on landfills and the environment has been a debatable subject for many years. There are numerous studies and reports showing both the pros and cons.

However, the 'perception' by the general public is that foam food ware is an environmental hazard. In the restaurant business, we have a saying, "Perception is reality".

If your customers perceive that foam food ware is an environmental hazard, then why not consider switching to environmentally-friendly carry-out containers? They are readily available.

Yes, they do cost more; however, there are ways to re-coup the cost or at least some of the cost. I have come across programs ranging from getting a sponsor for your to-go ware to foodservice operators setting up a subscription service (see Eco-Takeouts below). The subscription program also works great for food trucks/carts, school and institutional food service operations, caterers, and events food service. (See Related: Pickathon Music Festival)

Is it time to 86 foam food ware?

Enviro-Friendly Food Ware
Here are a few innovators of enviro-friendly carry-out food containers. We have no connection to any of these businesses - we just want to make you aware of some of the products available to the foodservice industry.

The last source makes a product that is especially suited for food trucks, food carts, and special events.

Is it time to 86 foam food ware? Well, you'll have to make that decision.


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