As many states across the United States look to aim for a zero waste status, new regulations and bans are being reviewed to make efforts in reaching this goal. Banning or regulating how foam products are used is becoming a popular topic among many states. New York City became the largest city to ban foam when it came into effect July 1st, 2015. Similar bans proceeded after it in more than 100 other U.S. jurisdictions, including Washington, DC, Portland, Maine and San Francisco, California. Local governments in these areas believe that foam is too contaminated and lacks a market to be recycled, so it must be controlled. An a variety of different industries from fast food to medical rely on the use of foam products and are now looking for alternatives. Is your company ready for these new EPS foam regulations?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, each year Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam (foam) cups.
What is EPS?
Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS), frequently mistaken for Styrofoam is a type of plastic product which is petroleum based made from oil. EPS foam is lightweight, sturdy, insulated and inexpensive which makes it an easy choice for businesses to develop numerous products from. Some examples are described below:
Foam cups and food service products: which include food containers, drinking cups and food trays. Foam products have become a staple product for many businesses to function. Many restaurants use foam containers to package takeout foods for customers. Coffee shops use foam cups to put hot coffees and teas in because it is a great insulator. Some customers even now ask or foam cups to put under plastic cups used to hold cold beverages to keep their drinks cooler.
Foam packaging peanuts: can be made out of a variety of different materials not all packaging peanuts are made from foam.
Foam Packaging: Can be used to ship electronics, furniture, food and other breakable or perishable items. When shipping out products companies use thousands of foam “packing peanuts” in order to absorb shock so products will not be damaged. The lightweight foam can be molded into practically any shape and is a great solution to keep items protected and insulated.
Foam Coolers: EPS is used to create coolers to keep items insulated. For example medical coolers are created to keep vaccines and medicines at critical temperatures to be shipped to hospitals and doctor’s offices. Foam cooler can also be used on a basic level of keeping food and drinks cold for transporting materials to restaurants and local markets.
Is EPS recyclable? What can companies do to reduce of their EPS waste?
Since there are many uses for EPS, there is an abundant amount of EPS waste that needs to be managed. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 500 years from now the foam coffee cups used for morning coffees will be sitting in a landfill somewhere, because the materials and chemical make up of foam products take an immense time to break down in the environment. This creates a problem for our environment.
There must be a solution to manage foam waste.
Foam waste is recyclable. This helps to reduce the amount of foam needed to be produced and diverts EPS form landfills and incinerators. Although foam is recyclable, many states do not offer or include it in their recycling programs and it takes a very long time to biodegrade. Some foam materials can’t be recycled due to technology and some cannot be recycled due to their lack of economic value. This in turn creates a problem as many businesses and households turn to disposing foam waste within the general waste sent to landfills.
If recycling is not an option, reducing or eliminating the use of EPS is the next step. There are eco-friendly opinions available that serve the same purpose as EPS foam products. Eco-friendly alternatives for packages for food are also available, biodegradable food packaging and disposables like cups and plated from corn starch or paper. These options produce less pollution when sent to landfills. Dunkin Donuts has recently started rolling out a new eco-friendly cup to replace the foam cups they use for hot beverages. They have been working on a product to replace these foam cups for years. Recently finding a solution, Dunkin Donuts began slowly rolling the new product out to cities like New York who have started implementing foam bans. Crate and Barrel started to eliminate foam in 2006, when they discontinued the use of petroleum-based packing peanuts to protect customer purchases.
The best alternative is to reuse or sell foam waste. Instead of buying new foam packing peanuts, a company can save old foam, break the bigger pieces up into smaller pieces and reuse them as “packing peanuts”. If a company uses large amounts of EPS foam on a regular basis they can consider saving it and selling it to another company with a demand for the foam product. This will help bring an extra profit to the business.