Restaurants are increasingly searching out and implementing sustainable solutions to every aspect of an operation, as they aim to both boost profitability and minimize their carbon footprint.
Cities and counties across California have been implementing bans on plastic bags, polystyrene and other materials. Restaurants, caterers, delis and other foodservice establishments have seen operating costs rise as alternative packaging costs two to three times as much as polystyrene products, which also performs far better, especially for very hot or cold dishes and beverages.
Though many of these efforts to ban specific products are supported as a means of eradicating litter, banning take-out food containers is not a magic bullet solution, especially when alternative packaging can just as easily become litter. Ill-conceived bans penalize both restaurant owners and customers by raising costs, forcing restaurants to use inferior products and lowering the convenience of take-out food.
Polystyrene foam food packaging containers are being recycled in various regions of the state, including some school districts and residential curbside pickups. There is a growing secondary market for used foam as it is recycled and used to make new picture frames and some green building materials such as crown molding and base boards.
The CRA believes that further expansion of foam recycling efforts and infrastructure is a better approach than a single discriminatory ban on a given type of packaging. Some localities that have banned foam food containers are now setting their sights on the next packaging material to eliminate, creating constant unpredictability for the industry in terms of what packaging material may be available on the market.
FURTHER EXPANSION OF FOAM RECYCLING EFFORTS AND INFRASTRUCTURE IS A BETTER APPROACH THAN A SINGLE DISCRIMINATORY BAN ON A GIVEN TYPE OF PACKAGING.
RESTAURANT OWNERS CAN PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE TO REDUCE LITTER AND THE AMOUNT OF POLYSTYRENE THAT GOES INTO THE LANDFILL BY SUPPORTING EFFICIENT COMMERCIAL RECYCLING PROGRAMS.