A study prepared by the Plastics Foodware Packaging Group was recently released which found that polystyrene containers, (in comparison to paper and corn-based ones), "use significantly less water and energy" due to their low weight, and generate only "slightly more" greenhouse gases. However, the study completely disregards any environmental or health impacts of expanded polystyrene (eps); factors which CAW believes are immensely important to analyzing the effects of polystyrene use, and provide some critical reasons to support SB 568 (Lowenthal), a statewide ban on polystyrene food containers.
The lightweight factor that the study cites as making polystyrene more energy efficient to produce, is also one of the factors which makes it a leading source of marine litter, much like plastic bags. In California, 377,579 tons of polystyrene are produced, and even when disposed of in garbage containers, can turn into litter due to its aerodynamic nature.
In California, places to recycle polystyrene are nearly nonexistent and much of the product is used to make take-out food containers which contaminates the material for recycling with foodwaste. With no options to recycle, its end of life option inherently is to end up in a landfill. The problem is that much of it is ending up in our oceans as well. To read more about the extent of the eps litter problem, click here.
The bottom line is that a solution to polystyrene litter lies in source reduction. SB 568 does not ban all polystyrene use, but it does prohibit food vendors from distributing cooked food in polystyrene containers. If you’d like to support this legislation, visit the links below.
- SB 568 (Lowenthal) - Polystyrene Food Container Ban
- Polystyrene Recycling Costs
- Polystyrene Local Ordinances