Foam Ban Avoids Littering Issue in Charleston’s Folly Beach

October 17, 2016

Folly Beach City Council has proposed to ban polystyrene foam from its shores in an effort to keep its oceans clean. A ban on EPS foam (a material mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company) would mean a ban on all foam foodservices items, such as food and beverage containers as well as beach coolers.

The ban was proposed by City Council member Pennell Clamp, who notes that visitors contribute about 75 percent of the plastic that ends up on the beach. Clamp, alongside council member Dale Stuckey, states that the City’s objective is to keep plastic out of the ocean.

A ban of proposed products, however, will not stop beachgoers from littering. Rather, visitors will replace foam litter with other types of waste. When considering alternatives, foam is far less taxing on the environment than popular substitutes that generate 181% more solid waste by weight than foam cups. In many cases, alternative products generate more waste, while increasing air and water emissions over their life cycles.

The environmental burden caused by the improper disposal of foam in Folly Beach could be avoided altogether with the implementation of a foam recycling program. When recycled properly, polystyrene foam can be turned a variety of consumer goods, such as architectural molding and garden nursery trays.

Further, a foam ban would have a negative economic impact on local businesses. Foam foodservice products are much less expensive for restaurants and take-out establishments, whose margins are already razor thin. Forcing these small business owners to comply with a EPS ban would be a costly endeavor for everyone involved. We urge the Folly Beach City Council to look in to foam recycling alternatives before they resort to a harmful and costly ban.