Official Clarity that EPS Foam is not Banned in Oxford

April 17, 2015

There has been a lot of fervour recently surrounding the Oxford City Council’s Street Trading Policy and whether or not it meant that expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam was banned for use in the city.

An early draft of the 2015 Street Trading Policy proposed that materials used as food service containers (cups, clamshells, bowls etc.) had to be biodegradable AND recyclable. Though foam is recyclable, it is not biodegradable, and this technicality would have meant that Oxford would be banning the use of foam. Street vendors who did not comply with this would have found themselves with a hefty fine or prosecution.

Martin Kersh, executive director of the Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA) recently addressed Oxford City Council on this issue, in a bid to change some wording in the policy that would allow the continued use of foam food service products. Mr. Kersh presented the Council with some thoughts on the damaging effects that a ban would have on local businesses. The cost of substitute materials range from two to five times the cost of foam products, and could have quashed the profit margins of these local business owners.

The idea behind the restrictions was to reduce litter around Oxford, but as Kersh pointed out, it is the human behaviour that is causing the litter, not the material itself. He called for higher fines to be introduced for littering, to combat this issue.

In a ruling on the 13th of April, Oxford City Council has amended the Street Trading Policy to say that food service containers used have to be biodegradable OR recyclable. This minor change in wording means that street vendors can choose which products they wish to serve their food from. As Mr. Kersh noted, most vendors using foam already have recycling practices in place for the product, which means that for all of them, foam is officially back on the menu.