Street vendors and small businesses throughout the city of Oxford, England, are celebrating a legislative victory that will keep down the cost of doing business. The Oxford city council recently introduced a policy that would have banned disposable products that are not recyclable and biodegradable. Council members erroneously believed single-use foam products were a part of the group. The policy was revised slightly to state, “recyclable or biodegradable,” a definition that will ultimately allow eateries and consumers to use the preferred polystyrene foam products.
The measure set in motion was meant to remove unnecessary waste from local landfills and used language that called for a ban on products that are not considered biodegradable and recyclable. The problem with this language is that it does not account for the fact that polystyrene foam products, one of the most commonly used materials in take-away food service, are recyclable and can be used in conjunction with efforts to lessen waste sent to landfills. In order to make the legislation do the good it was intended to do, the document was changed to state that the ban would apply to items that are not consider either biodegradable or recyclable. This small change of wording means a victory for not only the food vendors in Oxford, but also the foam recycling community throughout the world. This recognition that foam products are recyclable in a legislative act is a major step in changing the lack of education and misconceptions regarding the recyclability of polystyrene products. Philip Law, director-general of the British Plastics Federation, called this “A victory for common sense and a recognition that plastics packaging products are recyclable, save energy and help reduce the carbon footprint of retailers.”
Banning foam products from Oxford would have put an unnecessary economic stress on several small businesses throughout the area. Because the community centers on its student population attending the University of Oxford, food vendors must cater to a demographic often requiring low-cost dining options. This means that already slim profit margins would have been made even smaller if banning foam products had come to fruition. MB Public Affairs of Sacramento, CA recently conducted a survey which concluded that when a foam ban is put in place, restaurants spending $1.00 for foam foodservice items will be forced to spend $1.94 on alternatives. Avoiding this situation will allow businesses in Oxford to remain profitable while keeping food prices stable for the community.