Schools Misinforming Students about Foam Products

June 16, 2015

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 environmentally.