Why Choose Foam?

A soft drink in a foam cup will still have more carbonation in it after 15 minutes than the same drink in a paper cup after 2 minutes.

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The Truth About Foam

Foam, sometimes mistakenly referred to as ‘Styrofoam®’ which is a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, is one of our most valuable products because foam is inexpensive and safe to use. Most hospitals use foam products because foam products minimize exposure to bacteria and other foodborne pathogens compared to reusables. Foam is recyclable while also providing many consumer benefits. Foam products are lightweight, sturdy, inexpensive, and insulated. Foam cups can be recycled. Dart Container Corporation has 15 recycling centers in North America. There are many consumer and small and big business solutions for recycling foam. Dart has two recycling programs, CARE (Cups Are REcyclable) and Recycla-Pak. Both programs are designed to make recycling foam as convenient as possible. A common misconception about foam is that producing foam releases ozone depleting chemicals; however, the truth is that foam production does not use CFCs, which is an ozone depleting chemical. In fact, Dart Container Corporation has never used CFCs to produce foam.[i] Another common misconception is that foam is filling up our landfill, but the truth is that foam foodservice products makes up less than 1% by both weight and volume of our landfill waste.[ii] Those same consumers also think paper cups are biodegradable in landfills; however, the truth is that most modern landfills are constructed to discourage biodegradation because biodegradation can generate methane gas and leachate. Paper cups are often coated with plastic. If a paper cup is coated in plastic it means that the cup is seldom recycled. Most paper cups have a plastic coating in order to retain liquid. Not to mention that the typical foam cup requires about 1/3 less energy to produce than a similar coated paper hot cup with a corrugated sleeve. Foam cups insulate so well. Foam cups, unlike paper cups, don’t need a cardboard sleeve to make the cup comfortable to hold. Foam cups also don’t require layering tactics to keep hands safe from hot drinks. Paper cups are often layered (two cups put together or a cardboard sleeve placed over the cup) in order to keep hands from burning when touching the cup. An average-weight paper cold cup generates 148% more solid waste by weight than a comparable foam cup. An average-weight paper hot cup with a cardboard sleeve requires 47% more energy to produce than a comparable foam cup.[iii] [i] Alexander, Judd H. In Defense of Garbage. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1993. 55. [ii] United States Environmental Protection Agency, Municipal Solid Waste in the United States 2010 Facts and Figures, November 2011, Table 3 [iii] Franklin Associates, Ltd., Final Peer-Reviewed Report: Life Cycle Inventory of Polystyrene Foam, Bleached Paperboard, and Corrugated Paper Foodservice Products (Prepared for the Polystyrene Packaging Council, March 2006), Table 2-10, p. 2-23, Table 2-11, p....

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Landfill Myths

Foam makes up less than 1% by both weight and volume of our landfill waste. Most consumers who purchase paper cups don’t realize that more paper cups end up in landfills than foam cups.

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Recyclable Foam, Building Construction Innovation

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam has always been recyclable, but the uses of recycled foam are now becoming more broad thanks to Insulfoam and CityMix’s new process. The two companies have developed an innovative new way to recycle foam into a lightweight concrete additive that makes use of the 1-2% of Insulfoam’s in-plant waste. The foam manufacturer Insulfoam has a mission of green production. With the knowledge that EPS foam is recyclable they are always looking for ways to recycle EPS foam into usable products and solutions. CityMix, the producer of this new EPS foam born concrete, is excited about its commitment to diverting additional waste from the landfill. Since concrete products are usually comprised from rurally mined organic materials that require a lot of energy to process, the possible carbon reduction by wide-scale utilization of CityMix is significant. Recycling EPS foam waste into concrete products offers the construction industry, activists, businesses and communities an environmentally beneficial opportunity. In addition, the polystyrene additive is used as a partial substitute material for the heavy sand and gravel commonly used for cement production. EPS foam reduces the unit weight of concrete, which in turn reduces the weight of structures resulting in a lessening of hauling costs and worker fatigue. In addition, it enhances the performance of concrete, including improved flexibility and resilience, improved crack resistance, and reduced water absorption. The reuse of polystyrene foam by the Insulfoam and CityMix partnership certainly solves a problem in the construction world while simultaneously helping the environment. However, construction is not the only industry that recycled foam is used in the creation of environmentally sound products. EPS foam is recycled every day to make surfboards, DVD cases, children’s toys and a variety of other plastic products. Discovering new ways in which foam can make a difference is a key component of preventing foam from being banned. The prevention of foam bans starts with education. Popular alternatives are far for more likely to end up in landfills than foam food containers. In fact, polystyrene products make up less than 2% by both weight and volume of our landfill waste. Further, some consumers have access to foam recycling locations. Hopefully, more consumers will turn to foam recycling so that businesses and industries can continue to use EPS foam to innovate, and in turn make our planet a cleaner place to...

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Access to Recycling

While some cities are enacting bans on foam, access to foam recycling continues to increase throughout the country. Grants for cities and companies to expand their abilities to recycle foam #6 are among the reasons for this continued growth in access. A strong example of this is seen in Denver, Colorado. The Foam Recycling Coalition awarded a $45,000 grant to Alpine Waste & Recycling of Metro Denver. This grant makes Alpine Waste & Recycling the first company in Denver to recycle polystyrene foam products. According to the Foam Recycling Coalition, Alpine’s focus on the long-term future of PS foam recycling made the company stand out as a strong grantee. The Foam Recycling Coalition will play a big role in continuing to increase access to foam recycling because it plans to announce new grantees later this year. Outside of the Foam Recycling Coalition, cities are also supporting foam recycling expansion. Recently, Cedar Falls, Iowa, received a grant to assist the city in creating a foam recycling program. A grant from Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources will go towards investing in foam recycling equipment and the opening of drop-off locations. Because of grants like the ones given to Alpine Waste & Recycling and to Cedar Falls, recycling EPS foam has become an accessible reality for many residents. These grants demonstrate that foam recycling programs can be scaled to other cities and towns around the United States. In addition to grant programs, foam recycling access is increasing through other avenues, such as school lunch tray recycling, drop-off centers, and curbside recycling. Machines, like the StyroGenie, enable PS foam to be densified into blocks without the need for large commercial recycling centers to be involved. This makes it easier for schools and communities to handle their own foam...

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Foam Recycling Goes Global...

Supporters of foam recycling are pleased that this environmentally sustainable practice is catching on around globe. Residents and commercial outlets in Colchester County, Nova Scotia, will soon be able to add expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam in with the rest of their recyclable products. This means that thousands of household foam products, including egg cartons, meat trays, and protective packaging will bypass the landfill. This victory for the environment was made possible thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Foam Recycling Coalition (FRC), a trade association in North America. The Foam Recycling Coalition supports the increased recycling of foam foodservice packaging made from polystyrene foam by spreading information, providing technical resources and offering funding. With the help of the FRC, Colchester County has begun the process of purchasing equipment that compacts polystyrene foam into bricks prior to transportation into the market. The county will also be upgrading its intake facilities where the foam is processed. The Kemptown facility, located in the center of Nova Scotia and near the Trans-Canada Highway, also extends processing contracts to neighboring municipalities and waste management authorities. Therefore, the money that is being brought in by the FRC will go towards helping other areas process EPS foam. Polystyrene foam recycling programs like this one are very important to our economy and everyday lives.  Recycled foam is made into consumer goods that are used by millions on a daily basis around the world. These items include things like picture frames, toys and office supplies. In addition, foam is recycled to produce many building materials such as wood-alternative products. Ensuring that EPS foam is properly recycled also helps local restaurateurs and other businesses that rely on foam foodservice products to keep their doors open. Foam alternatives, like paper, are more expensive, do not...

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Foam Wins Big in Surfboard Design Competition

With more than four decades of experience shaping and building surfboards, it’s no wonder Roger Hinds is considered one of the best in his industry. This was more apparent than ever when Hinds was awarded “Best in Show” in the Sustainable Surf division at the 2015 Icons of Foam Shape-Off Competition last month in Del Mar, California. Hinds uses recycled polystyrene foam to create the shape of his boards, making his products as sustainable as they are award-winning. (Most consumers mistakenly refer to polystyrene foam products as Styrofoam®, which is actually a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company.) While the material is commonly used as take-out food containers and hot beverage cups, it’s a lesser known fact that foam also works well as a filler or main component of other products because of its versatility and light-weight structure. This marks the second year in a row that Hinds has taken home top honors from among his competitors; his board was also titled “Best Modern Performance.” Hinds shaped his award-winning Dingo model board using Marko recycled foam, and sealed – or “glassed” – it with a recyclable Connora resin. Using recycled polystyrene foam as a means of shaping surfboards is not a new concept. The non-profit organization Sustainable Surf has been collecting unwanted foam in California for this very purpose since 2011. The ultimate goal of the foam collection program is to keep unnecessary waste out of landfills, but Sustainable Surf founders Michael Stewart and Kevin Whilden also hope to educate individuals close to the surfing world about the importance of utilizing sustainable products. Having been endorsed by surfing professionals such as Torry Meister, Dylan Goodale and Mikala Jones, the Sustainable Surf team is clearly making an impact Those within the surfing industry are not the only individuals benefitting from recycled polystyrene foam. The material can be used as needed in products such as picture frames, garden planters and architectural crown molding. Manufacturers of these items often prefer to use recycled foam as opposed to virgin materials because it can prove to be a substantial money saver. The Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) recently released a report showing that nearly 140 companies in the U.S. and Canada are already either processing or using post-consumer foam. Sources: Surfline,...

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Schools Misinforming Students about Foam Products

There has been a large amount of misinformation surrounding EPS foam foodservice products being used by many school districts. Unfortunately, well-meaning staff who are looking to create environmentally sustainable schools have been taking some of the myths surrounding EPS foam as fact and are now looking to abrogate its use. This causes two long term problems: it will cost the school system almost double to replace all foam foodservice products with an alternative, and it perpetuates the cycle of misinformation with the students, their parents and additional staff members. One of the main accusations being thrown around is that plastic, including EPS foam, will stay in landfills for years. This is true. What is also true, though, is that food will also stay in landfills for years without decomposing. Modern sanitary landfills designed and built according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations entomb waste in a way that prevents it from leaking toxic chemicals or odorous gases into the surrounding environment. This also prevents oxygen, a key catalyst in the decomposition of many waste products, from entering the landfill. In short, the fact that foam does not biodegrade in a landfill is a positive, not a negative, feature. EPS foam can be recycled, reused and ultimately sold as a postconsumer product. For every piece of foam that enters a landfill, the community is wasting money that could be benefiting our economy. Changing this requires a re-education of some key players within the school districts in the hopes this will eventually trickle down to the students so we can all appreciate the importance and value of our foam foodservice products, and do the best both economically and...

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Denver Foam Recycling Gets to Work

Earlier this year, the Foam Recycling Coalition (part of the Foodservice Packaging Institute) announced that it would be providing grants to help waste management companies collect and recycle EPS foam, and then sell the recycled product to end-users. Alpine Waste & Recycling in Colorado was the first recipient of a $45,000 grant to provide these services to the Commerce City area. The President of the Foodservice Packaging Institute, Lynn Dyer, cited Alpine’s thoughtfulness and future preparedness as the reasons their application stood out from the numerous others. Alpine plans to use the grant money to buy a large scale foam densifier to compact the EPS foam into polystyrene (PS) foam bricks. This operational upgrade will make Alpine the first company in Denver to provide foam recycling. Vice President of Recycling for Alpine, Brent Hildebrand, commented that this grant allows them the opportunity to fulfill the wishes of consumers who have continually expressed a desire to recycle foam. It also allows the company to continue to foster its innovative culture and be at the forefront of the industry. This comes at a time when a coalition of foam manufacturers and recyclers has filed a suit against the New York City (NYC) Mayor, Commissioner, and Department of Sanitation. The basis of this suit is that foam was banned in an arbitrary and capricious manner because NYC officials erroneously concluded that foam cannot be recycled. While we wait for the Supreme Court ruling on that, it is gratifying to see that other parts of North America are being progressive and proactive in creating solutions that work for consumers, manufacturers, small business and most importantly, the...

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Florida Mayor Champions Foam Recycling May19

Florida Mayor Champions Foam Recycling

The Mayor of Hallandale Beach, Florida, Joy Cooper, shut down a proposal to ban expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. The Mayor’s commendable decision is based on her understanding that banning EPS foam containers on the beach doesn’t solve the problem of littering. Rather, the proper solution is educating its citizens of the economic and environmental benefits of foam recycling. Her overhaul starts with a six month foam recycling campaign focused on shedding light on litter prevention and recycling best practices. Mayor Cooper commented to the local newspaper, the Sun Sentinel, regarding her decision that “Products don’t litter, people do.” Hallandale Beach would have become the first city in Broward County to embrace a ban on polystyrene at the beach, and members of the community would have been stuck with a $50 fine for every offense. What is worse is that many bans have already been instituted across the United States. These bans have caused turmoil for local businesses and have understandably been met with pushback due to their impractical application. For example, foam recycling supporters in New York City have filed suit calling out the lack of fairness and economic hardship imposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s politically motivated foam ban. We know that educating consumers on the facts of foam recycling solves the environmental issues, not bans. So what are these facts? First of all, EPS foam is capable of being recycled and millions of pounds of foam are recycled daily around the nation. Further, there is a market for recycled foam as it is the building block of many of the consumer goods relied on daily such as office supplies, building materials, children’s toys, DVD cases and even surfboards. Secondly, removing EPS foam will not remove the landfill and littering problems. Compared with many other materials, polystyrene foam foodservice products compose a small percentage (approximately 1%) of all products by weight in landfills. The only solution to littering is to educate consumers on how to properly recycle their foam products and to enforce existing laws. A ban will not stop the majority of waste that ends up on Hallandale Beach. Finally, paper alternatives are not more environmentally sustainable than foam. EPS foam food containers insulate against hot and cold contents much better than their paper counterparts. Moreover, consumers often double up on paper cups to protect their hands against hot coffee or tea, resulting in more waste. This double-cupping phenomenon results in nearly twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as the use of a single average-weight polystyrene foam cup. It is clear that Mayor Cooper understands the importance of educating citizens before enacting local legislation that will not work. Many citizens today look to their cities and municipalities to support sustainability by offering recycling programs. Foam recycling is the by far the best practice and cities that adopt these programs are setting a good example for future generations by demonstrating environmental...

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