Why Is Styrofoam Legal

In addition, packaging polystyrene peanuts is illegal. The fiasco attracted media attention and sparked a national discussion about landfills, recycling and the environment. It is not surprising that polystyrene foam has emerged from this debate as the logical villain, as it does not degrade and therefore, it has been argued, would fill landfills and pollute our oceans. In 1988, Suffolk County in New York enacted the first ban on polystyrene foam in the United States, but in response, a plastic lobby quickly formed to lift the ban. Since then, similar bans have been introduced across the country — on polystyrene, plastic bags and, most recently, plastic straws — resulting in years of litigation and millions of dollars in legal fees. Maine Governor Janet Mills has signed a ban on Styrofoam food containers in restaurants and grocery stores, becoming the first state in the country to ban certain types of plastic foam. But this could be just the first shot in a broader national campaign against a product better known as polystyrene. In 1987, a barge called Mobro left 4,000 Islips in Suffolk County, New York City with 3,100 tons of waste, much of which was Styrofoam containers. The barge was supposed to dump its unwanted cargo in a landfill in North Carolina, but that turned out to be more difficult than expected. No one wanted garbage. The barge Mobro roamed the East Coast for six months, diving into the Caribbean and even heading to Belize without finding a suitable dump. But bans are not innocent either. Zink, who describes himself as a “deep and passionate environmentalist,” argues that bans can do more harm than good.

When considering a ban, he says, it`s important to consider what will replace the banned product. Since disposable foodservice containers will not cease to exist, what would replace polystyrene foam? It could end up being a different type of material that has a larger ecological footprint than polystyrene foam, Zink says. “If we want to continue to have single-use products anyway, it`s better if they`re made of eco-friendly materials rather than very powerful ones, and we`d better collect waste and keep it out of these fragile ecosystems.” Otherwise, you are simply exchanging one bad product for another. “Recycling has become a religion at this point, and when things become a religion, you stop looking at them critically — and I think we should,” Zink says, pointing out that reducing waste is a much more effective way to manage it. “A better option is not to use the disposable material in the first place.” Neither bans nor recycling will free us from polystyrene foam. Can we live without them? There are a few exceptions to the law, including expanded polystyrene egg cartons and white polystyrene shells used by grocery stores to package raw meat and fish. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, there was a global movement toward phasing out polystyrene foam. In many countries around the world, total or partial bans on expanded polystyrene foam have been issued nationwide. Polystyrene foam has also been banned at the subnational or local level in many countries. Maine`s bill faced strong opposition from the plastics industry, food container manufacturers and tourism groups that advocated for the low cost of polystyrene.

These industry groups have argued that Maine law does not guarantee that polystyrene is replaced by a more environmentally friendly material. Compostable options look promising, but a report from Clean Water Action indicates that the majority of single-use compostable foodservice products end up in landfills anyway and whether composted or landfilled, they don`t reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It seems that mealworms or fungi show promise for environmentally friendly solutions to break down plastic, but this technology is still in its infancy. First discovered in Berlin in 1839, the precursor to expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam – became immensely popular during World War II as an inexpensive building material for military aircraft. Between 1939 and 1945, the rate of polystyrene production potentially increased. In 1946, the Dow Chemical Company protected polystyrene foam. To make polystyrene more flexible, Dow scientist Ray McIntire mixed styrene and isobutene in a reactor and heated them. The result was extruded polystyrene foam, a moisture-resistant material made up of 98% air – so incredibly light and floating that it was considered a miracle product. Its low cost and ease of manufacture have catapulted polystyrene foam into our lives. From energy-efficient building insulation to surfboards, from above-ground hydroponic gardening to aircraft construction, polystyrene foam has been heralded as the wave of the future – until environmental problems arise. In the 1970s, research revealed that EPS foam not only breaks down in seawater, but also that the resulting pieces, called styrene monomers, are toxic when ingested by marine life. “It doesn`t biodegrade, it just decomposes, and when it breaks down, it becomes edible for more things and just leads further down the food chain,” says Nathan Murphy, Michigan state director of environment.

There are several concerns here, he adds. The first is that creatures that fill their stomachs with plastic parts may not have enough food. Second, that chemicals, especially endocrine disruptors, could leak out of this plastic and harm wildlife – or worse, end up in the human food chain. While few New York restaurants used polystyrene foam before the ban, those establishments faced higher costs for replacement materials, according to Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance. “We sincerely hope that Governor Mills and the Maine legislature will revisit this legislation next year after seeing its negative impact on the environment, businesses and local consumers,” Omar Terrie, director of the American Chemistry Council`s plastics division, told The Associated Press. Anna Dengler, vice president of operations at Great Forest, says that when you advise customers on polystyrene foam recycling, volume and weight are important. “The problem with polystyrene, as opposed to hard plastics, is that [hard plastics] weigh more,” she says. Because foam is so lightweight, it can take up a lot of space with much less monetary return, which is not worth it for many carriers.

“You need to have a special compressor on site to compress the polystyrene foam so that it removes all the air, so you`re more likely to find a carrier to move and recycle the material,” says Dengler. For a large urban company, this is a possibility, but many small businesses are limited by carrier availability. Joe Vaillancourt, CEO of Agilyx, an Oregon-based chemical recycling company, agrees. “Foam is one of the best quality polymers – very cost-effective, hugely valued, easy to manufacture – it`s the polymer of choice for things like shipping, food, electronics, etc.,” he says.

Previous article

You May Also Like