Foam is the Solution

July 09, 2012

Legislators believe a polystyrene foam ban will solve litter problems. It doesn’t; foam bans swap one kind of litter for another consisting primarily of plastic-coated paper. Moreover, if banning PS foam kills jobs and raises costs, does banning it solve a problem or create one?

The issue is not with polystyrene foam, it’s with littering. Foam is a small fraction of all solid waste. Instead of banning foam containers, communities should implement educational programs and open foam recycling centers. A study conducted by Keep America Beautiful (KAB) indicated that littering behaviors can be altered through comprehensive educational programs. In fact, the actual count of overall litter decreased by 61% from 1969 to 2009. Banning polystyrene foam punishes the businesses using foam take-out containers because of the increased costs of purchasing alternative products which are significantly more expensive. A foam ban also punishes the consumers who properly dispose of them because foam take out containers provide superior insulation over alternative paper products.

An article from California’s Orange County Register raises the question, “Are legislators ban-happy?” A prime example comes from Laguna Beach’s local “ban-happy” government. “Over the last few years, the council has banned plastic bags, skateboarding on several hillside streets, tiki torches, medical marijuana dispensaries, smoking in beaches and parks, and foam take-out containers,” the article explained. In April, the council discussed outlawing helium balloons. Is the Laguna Beach government being overprotective and are consumers getting fed up with all of the bans?

Laguna Beach Mayor Jane Egly said, “Our concern is that folks may be getting a little tired of the council banning things.”

“Some of the council is getting tired of the council banning things,” Laguna Councilman Kelly Boyd noted.

The Orange County Register states, “People are perfectly capable of making good judgments about what products they do and do not want to consume. Parents can determine what’s best for their kids. Yet, at every level of government, California’s lawmakers want to be our nannies.”

Banning foam is not the solution for littering problems. Communities should launch educational programs to alter littering behaviors. By altering the littering behaviors, a foam ban is unnecessary and consumers and businesses can continue to benefit from the use of foam foodservice products.

Orange County Register