The Miami Beach City Commission is currently reviewing a bill that would change the type of single-use foodservice items available in Miami. Recent legislation introduced by Commissioner Michael Grieco seeks to disallow sidewalk cafes, special events and vendors in city parks from serving food and beverage items in single-use containers made of polystyrene foam.1 It’s a common misconception that banning polystyrene foam is a way to protect the environment, and it’s this viewpoint that could cost small businesses in Miami thousands of dollars each year. Polystyrene foam is often mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam®, which is a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company. Foam products are generally the preferred single-use item in regards to food because they provide several amenities that consumers find appealing, such as keeping hot liquids warm, but still safe to hold.
If the ban on polystyrene foam foodservice products were to go to a vote and pass, food vendors would be forced to switch to higher priced alternatives. Not only do these alternative products prove to be an inconvenience for customers due to food and liquid soaking through the material, but they can also cost double or triple the amount of foam products. Restaurants within New York City are also currently facing a ban on their preferred foam products, and more than 1,000 local business owners have written the city council in opposition of the legislation.2 In response to this reaction, MP Public Affairs conducted a cost analysis study to show exactly what banning polystyrene foam would mean. According to the study, for every $1.00 small business owners currently spend on polystyrene foam products, they will have to spend at least $1.94 on replacement products.2 MP Public Affairs also noted that because alternative products do not insulate as well as foam, consumers tend to “double cup” their take-away items, which puts even more pressure on profit margins that are already very thin, and creates more unnecessary waste.2
The truth is that polystyrene foam products can be recycled, but the community needs to educate its residents on the benefits of foam recycling.2 Several other U.S. cities have accomplished this through the implementation of city-wide recycling programs and initiatives. Dart Container Corporation, a manufacturer of foam-based items, currently works directly with many municipalities to help streamline recycling programs. Recycling efforts often involve collecting foam items, processing the material so that it is compressed to a fraction of its original size, and then recycling it into a new material to be used in the production of brand new consumer goods, such as picture frames or crown molding.