In 2012, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg set a new goal for his city to be recycling at least thirty percent of household trash by the year 2017, and now city officials are looking for ways to set that goal into motion. Residents are currently recycling about fifteen percent of their total waste, but now need new opportunities to responsibly recycle more products. City officials will be looking at several different factors within the process of reaching this goal, including the role that polystyrene foam plays in waste collection. Polystyrene foam, often referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, makes up many forms of foodservice items such as takeout containers and cups.
The Bloomberg administration has recently been vocal specifically about implementing a ban on polystyrene foam foodservice items within the city in order to reach this new goal. This consideration has been met with much opposition from many small business owners who believe this is a premature decision to make without understanding the facts surrounding what a ban would actually mean to business owners and consumers. At the surface level, one might consider banning foam to be an option, but after reviewing the facts it’s easy to see why this notion needs to be carefully reviewed and considered.
For example, one product many consider to be an alternative to polystyrene foam cups are paper cups, however this item proves to be even harsher than foam on the environment. According to NYMag.com, it takes up to two-and-a-half times more energy to produce a paper cup than a foam cup. Paper cups also require a very large amount of water for production; twelve times more water than required to produce a foam cup. Beyond this comparison, most paper cups are actually lined with low-density polyethylene, labeled grade 4, which is not collected for recycling in NYC. If city officials move forward with the ban on polystyrene foam many of its paper alternatives will end up in area landfills regardless.
One organization providing new technology to recycle foam products throughout the US in order to eliminate this waste from landfills is Dart Container Corporation. Dart’s technology works to compress polystyrene foam waste to a fraction of its original size, making the foam usable for manufacturers who incorporate this once discarded material into the production of new consumer goods. This technique not only takes polystyrene foam out of landfills, but also takes an item that is at the end of its life and reintroduces it back into the consumer market. This process creates a positive outcome from an environmental perspective, as well as develops new economic opportunities.
Source: NY Magazine