Trade Associations to Oxford City Council: Don’t Ban Foam, Recycle It!

November 14, 2014

Foam manufacturers and trade associations in England are urging the Oxford City Council to promote foam recycling as an alternative to a proposed foam ban. The proposed ban, put forward by Oxford’s licensing committee in June of 2014, is currently under consideration. Supporters of foam recycling argue that investing in a foam recycling programme would be a better solution for the city of Oxford, as it would benefit the environment while allowing a superior product to remain in use.

The subject of the proposed foam ban – polystyrene foam – is often mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam, but the two products are not the same. Polystyrene foam is used to make foam cups and take-away trays, while Styrofoam is a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company that is used primarily for insulation.

The foam fight in Oxford revolves around environmental concerns, but the foam industry maintains that foam is more environmentally friendly than most people realise. The proposed ban, initiated by The Oxford City Council, specifies that, “for food traders all packaging and utensils for use by consumers shall be made of biodegradable or recyclable materials.” AnnMarie Treglia of Dart Products Ltd. agrees, stating that “Packaging and utensils should be functional and recyclable.” But then she points out that “Foam foodservice products are 100% recyclable, cost-effective, and have a low environmental impact.”

The Oxford City Council included the foam ban proposal in a larger document entitled “Street Trading Policy.” The purpose of this policy is to create a framework for the Oxford City Council’s management of street trading. Because the City Council oversees Oxford’s street traders, it is also considering the negative economic impact that a foam ban would have on Oxford’s vendors during the consultation period that is currently underway.

Foam manufacturers and trade associations plan to combat the proposed ban by educating Oxford about the viability of foam recycling. They point out that a number of U.S. cities have implemented robust and effective foam recycling programs, and the recycled material is used to make items such as crown? molding, picture frames, and postcards. The industry hopes to educate consumers about the benefits of foam and foam recycling while discouraging litter, which is a behavior that all parties involved can agree is detrimental to Oxford.