New York’s Polystyrene Problem

Polystyrene foam containers are commonly used by various places in the food industry. The most common things they are used for is egg containers, take out containers, and to go cups. Albany, Washington, D.C., Seattle and New York City banned the use of foam containers. Recently Judge Margaret Chan overturned the New York foam ban that restricted he use of foam containers, stating they could be recycled in a cost effective way. New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio disagrees with the ruling saying the products cause real harm in New York’s landfills, streets and waterways.

One common misconception is that polystyrene foam is not recyclable; however, polystyrene foam from the food industry is recycled in to building insulation, plastic lumber, crown molding and a variety of other usable products. According to Beihang University and Stanford University meal worms can safely eat and digest polystyrene foam and other types of plastics, the worm’s biomass and biodegradable waste is then safe to use in soil for plants and even crops.

Dart Container Corporation, states that it is committed to helping the city recycle 100 percent of its foam products by implementing a comprehensive recycling proposal. This proposal would be a win-win for the environment and the city by generating more revenue. Currently there are a number of programs where people can take advantage of foam recycling, and more communities are also accepting clean form food service containers in the curb side recycling programs. These programs are in full effect within Canada and have been since 2008.

Another common misconception about polystyrene foam is it’s made up of ozone depleting chemicals. However, these food service products are not manufacture red with CFC’s. CFC’s have not been used since the early 1980’s. Polystyrene foam products are made from air, polystyrene, and an expansion agent. Currently there are more paper cups in a landfill than there are foam food service products, consumers think that paper is biodegradable but the plastic coating covering the paper cup makes it no longer biodegradable.

As long as the communities and politicians educate themselves on the advantages of Dart polystyrene, more polystyrene will be recycled. It is clear that foam recycling is a better solution than the plastic coated paper that is currently taking up more waste in landfills.