Foam Ban Concerns

October 01, 2013

Many leaders within the city of Portland, Maine are raising concerns over the economic impact of a potential ban on polystyrene foam foodservice items.  First introduced by City Councilor Ed Suslovic last year, a foam ban of this nature would prohibit food vendors, restaurants and other businesses within the city from using polystyrene foam materials.  Banning foam, which is often referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, would mean eliminating takeout containers and foam cups many local businesses depend on daily.

One such business owner who would be affected by this ordinance is Danny Bouzianis, who owns several Dunkin’ Donuts franchises within the city of Portland and understands the high price of switching from foam products to paper alternatives. The switch would increase Bouzianis’ operating costs by $10,000 per year. While some proponents of the ban claim there are “a lot of options” when considering alternatives to foam, they are not considering the bottom line of their local businesses and the negative economic impact that would ultimately be passed along to Portland residents and visitors.

Another consideration of this potential ban is the impact it would have on businesses outside of restaurants. The Maine Medical Center within Portland, one of the largest operating hospitals within the New England area, has also calculated the increased operating costs a ban on polystyrene foam would cause. According to the hospital’s director of communications, Matt Paul, using alternatives within the building’s cafeteria and foodservices for its patients would require $400,000 in additional spending. Maine Medical Center is not the only hospital located in Portland; there are several other hospitals also within the city limits that would have increased operating costs because of this ban as well.

The economic burden caused by banning foam in Portland could be avoided altogether with the implementation of a recycling program specific to polystyrene products. Dart Container Corporation, a manufacturer of foam items, has developed programs to responsibly dispose of foam materials.  Dart’s CARE (Cups Are REcyclable) Program, for example, provides participants with a device to compress collected foam cups to a fraction of their original size. The compressed material is then sent to a manufacturer that recycles the mass into new consumer products, eliminating the foam waste altogether.