A bill passed by Miami Beach last year is now making waves of its own in neighboring South Florida cities. After the Miami Beach city council decided to ban single-use polystyrene foam products, neighboring communities Bay Harbor Islands and North Bay Village have also tentatively approved ordinances to remove the material from certain areas of town, including the restaurants that depend on it regularly. Once the ordinance takes effect, local businesses will be facing a new economic hardship because they will be required to purchase alternatives to foam that come with a higher price tag. Consumers often mistakenly refer to polystyrene foam as Styrofoam®, which is a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company. The multi-use material makes up several forms of single-use foodservice products, such as hot beverage cups and take-away food containers, which are safe, cost-effective and provide several amenities which both consumers and vendors prefer.
This news comes as a truly missed opportunity for these cities in Florida. Other areas throughout the U.S. are choosing to implement foam recycling programs, as opposed to a ban, because of the potential the product has after its intended use. Recycled polystyrene is a valuable commodity in the manufacturing industry because it can be used in the production of consumer goods. Recycling foam is accomplished through collecting and cleaning the discarded foam, having the foam compressed into dense foam blocks, and selling these blocks to manufacturers to use as material for filler in new items, such as picture frames and crown molding. Producing these items by using recycled foam, rather than virgin products, cuts the material costs for manufacturers. This process not only removes the discarded foam from landfills and decreases potential litter, but also creates new economic opportunities. In California alone, more than 60 cities participate in curbside recycling programs, where residents simply put their used foam on their curb to be picked up with their regular trash.
Aside from a missed opportunity, banning polystyrene foam will be bad for the businesses that depend on these products. MB Public Affairs, an independent research firm, conducted a study in 2013 showing that when a foam ban is implemented, for every $1.00 restaurants spend on polystyrene foam products, they would be required to spend at least $1.94 on alternative replacements. Banning polystyrene foam could nearly double the cost of the materials many restaurants and eateries depend on to do business. When a foam ban was introduced in New York City, more than 1,000 local businesses spoke out against the regulation in fear of what it would ultimately cost their bottom line. The initiative set forth by the leaders of these two communities will most certainly mean more economic pressure on their local small businesses.