CROFTON, Md., April 20, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Under misguided pretenses, an ordinance targeting expanded polystyrene transport packaging was introduced at the San Francisco Board of Supervisor's meeting on April 19th. The amendment proposes to add distribution packaging to an existing polystyrene food service ban. The amendment would restrict only local businesses' ability to use polystyrene packaging for shipments. Medical, pharmaceutical, electronics and agricultural produce shipments will continue to enter the city at the same rate as before, raising an important question, "what exactly will this bill accomplish?"
In a race to meet its zero waste goals, the city is grasping at straws since according to its own study, "The City of San Francisco Streets Litter Re-Audit 2009," polystyrene from all sources comprised a miniscule portion of the litter stream (less than 2%). Moreover, polystyrene transport packaging – which is a subset of the larger polystyrene foam plastics family – is unlikely to be associated in any meaningful way with litter streams due to its use for product distribution. Consumers typically don't litter on the way home from an electronics purchase or trip to the pharmacist. Moreover, when considering that the city would target an even smaller subset of polystyrene transport packaging – only local businesses that use polystyrene transport packaging for outbound shipments – the amendment has no logical connection to reducing waste in San Francisco.
Allegations that polystyrene poses human health concerns is negated by the same agency San Francisco cites to make this erroneous claim. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) acknowledges that polystyrene is not styrene, as clarified by Dr. Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. who stated, "Let me put your mind at ease right away about polystyrene foam… [the levels of styrene from polystyrene containers] are hundreds if not thousands of times lower than [levels of styrene that] have occurred in the occupational setting...In finished products, certainly styrene is not an issue."
A local company FoamRecycle voiced its concerns that, "the city wants to eliminate a problem that is not a problem." Having just announced new polystyrene foam recycling services in mid-March, they question San Francisco's intentions to support recycling with its refusal to recycle foam polystyrene.
Reminiscent of a witch hunt, the popularity of polystyrene bans are tied more to intangible feelings and beliefs rather than scientific fact. The facts simply do not support a product ban which even if enacted will make a negligible – if any – contribution to the city's intention to protect the environment. Conversely, the potential for increased product damage by alternative packaging materials may result in unforeseen, detrimental environmental impacts.
Although the city has free license to introduce legislation whether it is based on verifiable rationale or not, Supervisor London Breed should be held to a higher standard. Good intentions do not excuse faulty and incomplete research. Polystyrene foam transport packaging is used to deliver a multitude of products efficiently and safely, it is a miniscule portion of the waste stream, and according to NTP styrene is not an issue in finished products. Packaging serves an important function and forced material substitutions without the benefit of full life cycle analysis or other environmental weighting have no guarantee of improvement – certainly not just because the city of San Francisco says so.
For questions, please contact Betsy Steiner, Executive Director at the EPS Industry Alliance at 800-607-3772 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact: Mike Robertson, Communications Manager
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SOURCE EPS Industry Alliance