The California government has three days to decide on whether to hold a vote that, for the most part, will do a great deal of harm to their economy. This toxic piece of legislation is Senate Bill 568 and would prohibit food service operations such as schools, restaurants and convenience stores from dispensing food in any foamed polystyrene container or cup after January 1st, 2016. Although the effective date is a ways away, let’s consider some of the factors that will likely happen should this pass.
- The bill at your favorite food service establishment will likely rise. Reason being is, if they have a strong take-out program as most places do these days, the price of their containers just increased by about 20%. At the moment, that’s the delta between foamed PS containers and alternative materials available today.
- Layoffs at food service establishments will probably start to occur. Mainly for the same reason as above. Here’s a news clip video that pretty much sums this up. I love the recap at the end Mr. Cavuto does. I agree whole heartily and have vented about this before. With all the major issues our governments have to deal with, why are they wasting time with this type of legislation?
Now I know all the environmentalists out there are saying, well this will help save our environment. Let’s break that down. First of all, recent studies have shown that bans on certain types of materials (PS foam) for “greener” alternatives do not affect the litter stream in any way. All this does is simply replace one type of litter with another. Do politicians really think a litter bug won’t throw their coffee cup out their car window because it’s made from something other than PS foam? Of course they’ll still chuck it out their window. They are litter bugs! That’s what they do. Also, according to a 2007 study by Keep America Beautiful, take-out food packaging, including both paper and plastic, accounted for only 4.1% of the total visible items on state roadways. Now I know any type of litter is a bad thing, but there is another 96% of stuff out there that makes up the most of it.
We also hear the argument that foamed PS is clogging our landfills. This topic was touched on briefly from that news clip. Here’s the real skinny. According to 2009 EPA statistics, single use food service items made up only 1.3% of the total materials headed to landfills. Now keep in mind that the 1.3% included all single use food service items. They did not break out just PS foam items. Again, a very small percentage of the total, just like the litter statistic. While we are on the landfill topic, we hear a lot of chatter about these materials not breaking down when they do end up there. This is absolutely correct. They don’t break down quickly. However, keep in mind, nothing breaks down quickly in a landfill. Plastic or otherwise. This topic was covered by Dr. Narayan in his very detailed report published in Bioplastics Magazine. Basically he states that landfills are not giant composters, but rather giant mummifiers.
Bans on certain materials in favor or say compostable materials don’t work either. Why? Well at the moment we simply do not have the infrastructure to divert all this material to compost facilities. Yes in a certain section of the country (Seattle) where a ready and willing compost facility exists, there is a diversion plan in place. Of course I don’t know if it is sustainable. Only time will tell there. Until a great deal more of these facilities come on line and become operational, all that waste is still going to go to a landfill. And we already know what happens, or rather what doesn’t happen in a landfill. As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, perhaps these “all knowing” politicians would be better served trying to figure out how to help the entrepreneurial spirit of business growth (more composting facilities) and less time banning things that will do the exact opposite.
Now, please don’t get me wrong here. I’m not against alternative materials. Far far from it! At Genpak we were one of the very first food packaging manufacturers to offer a full line of BPI certified, 100% compostable items. In fact our Harvest Fiber line has grown dramatically since we first launched our Harvest series almost 6 years ago. As a company we also offer many other alternative materials ranging from #1 recyclable products produced using post consumer recycled content to source reduced hybrid materials along with microwave safe items that are not produced from foamed polystyrene. As you can see, it’s not like we haven’t got plenty products to offer where our elected officials wield their power. But I believe these transitions to different materials should happen naturally as a result of consumer preference. When this occurs gradually over time, businesses can adjust seamlessly as they always do. In fact it is occurring as we speak. The success of our Harvest Fiber and other lines are proof of that. However when government steps in and imposes its will, like what is happening in California, businesses get hurt. Just like the example in the video clip.
If you oppose this bill that would restrict the free market place for all food service venues, let your voice be heard. Follow this link and let your Assembly representative know your opinion. But please don’t delay or it may be too late!