In an effort to become a zero-waste community by 2040, the City of Vancouver is considering new strategies to reduce polystyrene foam food packaging waste, among other materials. But, not only will restaurant owners in Vancouver be unhappy about making Vancouver foam-free, there are greener options that don’t involve banning a material crucial for businesses.
Polystyrene foam—not to be confused with Styrofoam, a registered trademark of Dow Chemical Company—is a preferred material for restaurants, coffee shops, food trucks, small businesses, hospitals, schools, and other institutions because of its reliability and low cost.
It is a very dependable product frequently used for coffee cups, lids, clamshell takeout containers, egg cartons, and more. Many restaurant and small business owners swear by foam because it’s incredibly effective at keeping hot foods hot and cold food cold.
It is also valued over alternatives because of its low price. Many restaurants already operate on razor-thin profit margins, and more costly alternatives would lead restaurants to either increase prices for consumers or eat the costs themselves.
Luckily, polystyrene foam is recyclable, and it’s currently recycled in cities and communities across Canada and the US. Additionally, there are quite a few drop-off locations in Vancouver and the surrounding area.
When foam is properly recycled, it can be remade into items like rulers, ballpoint pens, garden nursery trays, and crown molding. On the environmental front, foam recycling reduces solid waste, decreases our dependence on virgin resources, prevents pollution, saves energy, and protects the Earth’s atmosphere.
Rather than focusing on how to remove polystyrene foam from the city’s restaurants, an emphasis should be placed on encouraging foam recycling in the city.