A Foam Ban Would be Costly

August 07, 2012

Portland, Maine gets closer to enacting a foam ban, but coffee shops and takeout restaurants say the ban will be costly. Business owners also fear the decision will be unpopular among customers.

Dan Fuentes tried selling coffee in paper cups three years ago at the Lobby Café on Congress Street.  He said using paper cups increased his expenses because they cost twice as much as polystyrene foam cups. Polystyrene foam is commonly referred to as Styrofoam™, which is a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company. Fuentes originally sold coffee out of paper cups thinking this would increase business from the “environmentally minded” consumers, but he was wrong.  It wasn’t long before Fuentes made the switch from paper to foam.

“I tried to do the right thing, but it didn’t work out,” said Fuentes, who is trying to keep his coffee prices low. “(Paper cups) were considerably more expensive than Styrofoam™.”

Consumers prefer foam cups over paper cups because of the superior insulation properties. Paper cup users frequently “double cup” or use a cardboard sleeve to protect their hands from hot beverages.

Despite the benefits of foam cups over paper cups, Portland City Council voted to craft an ordinance banning the sale of foam products.  The council will need to approve the ordinance before it can take effect.  One of the largest businesses that could be affected is Dunkin’ Donuts. Ed Wolak owns 15 Dunkin’ Donuts shops in Maine, 11 of which are in Portland, and believes consumers should be given a choice.

“Our customers greatly prefer Styrofoam™,” Wolak said. “I’m not quite sure why (city officials) would want to ban it.”

Portlandbusiness owners believe the idea is admirable, but they are concerned the city is going to become ban-happy. Fuentes is concerned the “city is on a path to become likeNew York City, where Mayor Bloomberg recently proposed a ban on large soda servings.” Fuentes added, “It’s a slippery slope.”

Yan Lam, who owns the Oriental Table on Exchange Street, said a ban on foam trays would increase expenses and slow him down during the lunch rush, which would create lines

“If we have to use individual containers it (would) take forever,” Lam said. “We cannot raise the price. We have to eat it.”

Instead of banning foam products, which has proven to be costly for small businesses, cities should encourage businesses to recycle these products.  Recycling foam is easy with programs like Dart Container’s CARE (Cups Are REcyclable) and Recycla-Pak.  Recycled foam can be made into items such as picture frames and architectural molding.  Read more on how to recycle foam.

Source:The Portland Press Herald