Prominent foam manufacturers are fighting a foam ban proposed by a Welsh environmental group with the best weapons they have – science, facts, and a call for foam recycling.
The Friends of Barry Beaches (FBB), an environmental organization in Wales, submitted a proposal to the Welsh government on April 29, 2014, requesting a ban on polystyrene foam in Wales. The petition cites the litter that lines the local beaches and countryside as the primary motivation behind the ban, but also notes some of the environmental concerns that are commonly attached to foam, such as its impact on wildlife and its inability to biodegrade significantly. The group also maintains that Welsh councils are spending millions to clean up polystyrene packaging.
SOLO Cup Europe, a leading foam manufacturer, argues that its product is too often misunderstood and maligned. Polystyrene foam, the subject of the proposed ban, is often mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam, but the two products are different. Polystyrene foam is used to make single use cups and foodservice containers, while Styrofoam, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, is primarily used for insulation.
Foam is also less taxing on the environment than alternative materials, according to Anne Sutton of SOLO Cup Europe. Sutton states in a letter to Councillor Robert F. Curtis, the Vale of Glamorgan Cabinet Member for the Environment behind the proposed foam ban, that “the environmental impact of foam is low.” The foam industry points out that foam is comprised of 98% air and is responsible for less than 1% by both weight and volume of landfill waste.
Under the proposed ban, Welsh traders would be required to swap the foam take-out containers they currently use for alternatives that cost more and insulate food and drinks poorly. The additional costs incurred by traders and operators of Wales’s mobile food units would likely be passed along to consumers. This, argues the foam industry, could damage business, cut workers’ hours, and even cause some businesses to go out of business.
The foam industry would like to see Wales adopt a foam recycling program instead of pushing for a ban. Foam manufacturers point to numerous U.S. cities that have successfully implemented foam recycling programs, and they argue that recycling foam would be good for both the environment and the local economy. The foam industry hopes its recycling initiative will strike a chord with Welsh environmentalists, and that both parties can work together to tackle the litter problem in Wales.