December 3rd, 2013
I attended the hearing last evening in Albany held by the County Executive Dan McCoy, who listened to statements from folks regarding the proposed ban on foamed polystyrene food packaging. There was a good mix of people from individual citizens to local union workers to manufacturers. It was interesting listening to the people who were in favor of the ban and their misguided arguments. It became clear that much of what the proponents of the ban were saying was pulled from urban legend emails and internet chatter concocted by those who would demonize what they don’t like. The following is a summary and subsequent debunking of their arguments.
- Foamed polystyrene is “clogging” our landfills. FALSE! The EPA stated that in 2011, as a nation we generated 250MM tons of trash. Of that trash, 12.7% is listed as plastic. Keep in mind that is all plastics from shampoo bottles & toys to durable goods such as furniture. They estimate that only 2.8% of that plastic is non-durable goods such as plates, bowls and cups. The EPA did not segregate solid plastic from foamed plastic which, is the material being targeted in this ban. Consider for a moment that a foam 12 ounce bowl weighs about 58% less than a solid plastic 12 ounce bowl and you can reasonably concluded that the actual amount of foamed food service items going into landfills is more around the 1.5% number. Now I do not have a number I can hang on the word “clogging”, but 1.5% of something is far from any reasonable definition.
- Foam polystyrene is dangerous to your health. FALSE! One lady who spoke actually stated that these items were poisonous and why would we want to use poisonous products. The sad part was, she was not being facetious and had been convinced that foamed food service items would do her serious harm. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. Foam food service items have been safely used for over 40 years. The FDA has approved foam food service items to be safe for food contact. In fact there are studies done by the Nevada Health Department that show the use of single use packaging is actually more safe that permanent ware due to lower microbial levels. Think about it. How many times have you gone out to eat and noticed your plate or silverware had little specs of food dried on it? This simply never happens with foam food packaging.
There was also a fair bit of chatter regarding the component styrene. This is an instance where people hear what they want to and disregard the rest. The fact is, styrene is a liquid whereas polystyrene is an inert solid. I’ve never seen a liquid version of a foam food container. Furthermore, styrene is present naturally in many foods we eat including beef, strawberries, wheat and cinnamon. In fact you’d be exposed to far more styrene by eating one cinnamon donut than drinking 30 cups of coffee from a foam cup. I have not heard of any bans on cinnamon donuts though. Why? Simple, the amount of exposure is so incredibly small, it is measured in parts per billion. The plain truth is foam food service products are totally safe. History, the FDA and the scientific facts support that claim whereas those who claim otherwise rely on hyperbole, urban legends and misinformation to confuse and misguide folks like that poor little lady who thought it was poisonous.
- Foam containers contribute to litter. Should this ban go through, Albany County would simply be trading one type of litter for another. The ban calls for replacements items to be compostable. Here again, the folks in the audience who brought up this point simply don’t know that even though an item may be designated as compostable, it simply will not go away like they think it will if littered. I know this because as a company we offer many compostable products and know that they will only compost when deposited in professionally run compost facilities that have control over heat and moisture exposure. One gentleman displayed a cup that had been littered and said if that were a paper cup or other compostable item, it would have gone away. That is simply not true. Consider this, it takes a leaf one full year to biodegrade back into the forest floor. How long do you think it would take a compostable cup or bowl, if littered to fully biodegrade? I’ll bet that gentleman thought it was maybe a month or two. I think not. More like a couple of years. Addressing the litter issue by banning a particular product in favor of a far more expensive (2 times more) item just places undo financial hardship on business owners who use those products. It does nothing about litter. A litterbug is going to litter that cup no matter what it is made of. It seems to me increasing fines and actually going after the litterbugs would do much more in controlling litter than banning a product. Catch someone and fine them $200 bucks for chucking a cup out their window will quickly change their minds on how to properly dispose of that cup. Litter is not something caused by food service single-use items. Litter is caused by unmanaged and overflowing trash receptacles, the general lack of properly placed trash receptacles and unscrupulous people who knowingly and illegally dump their refuse into the environment. Not that any litter is good, I thought it would be helpful to know that “fast food” packaging which is what we are talking about here, actually is a very small percentage of the total litter. Here is a graphic right from Keep America Beautiful that shows these containers are only 5.3% of the litter problem.
As you can see, I’ve linked in sources from reputable web sites and listed other references by name. Anything stated here can be looked up and verified…unlike most all of the wild claims made by proponents of the ban last night. I really think that 90% of the folks that spoke in favor of the ban are good people that are just not informed of the true facts. They have bought into the misinformation and outright falsehoods spread by the other 10% who simply have it out for “big business”. Hopefully the eight Genpakers along with the employees from other food packaging manufacturers that were present, helped to put faces behind company names. We are folks just like them who live and raise families right here in New York State. I doubt my little blog here will change the minds of those 10% who only hear what fits into their ideology, but for those other people, I truly hope that you will read and consider the facts before passing judgement.
November 27th, 2013
Emperor Bloomberg is trying to inflict as much damage to the economy as he can prior to his exit as New York City Mayor by cramming through a ban that would stagnate job growth and raise consumer prices all while doing nothing to solve their litter issue. I think the most disturbing thing in that piece, was the video where all the school children were marched out by their “teachers” to chant against the polystyrene workers who came in support of their jobs. Typical it seems these days of certain groups. Demonize and belittle that which they do not agree with or which doesn’t fit into their ideology. A sad day for those poor school kids and shame on those “teachers” for forcing their personal views upon them.
October 3rd, 2013
I was recently in the San Francisco airport and noticed that most of fine food establishments were serving their food in containers that were marked as compostable. We’ve talked about compostable containers many times before, in this blog. In fact as a company, we sell quite a lot of compostable packaging under our Harvest product lines. What struck me as odd was there were no collection points set up for these containers. The only option for disposal was into the trash receptacles. Once they go into those garbage cans, they are headed for the landfill. Unfortunately, most people mistakenly assume that the container will compost or go away in the landfill. This is not the case.
Studies have shown that even organic materials (food waste, lawn clippings) last a very long time. So I guess the question is, did these food operations decide to “go green” thinking the containers would be composted, were they forced to by legislation, or did they just make a conscious decision to do this as an internal initiative based on consumer feedback. In a perfect world, the answer would be the last. I believe the markets and consumers need to be the force behind these types of decisions, but it is my guess that in this case, they were forced to since most every food outlet was using compostable packaging. I find it hard to believe that every individual food operation in that airport thought the same way in terms of their food packaging.
Just to be clear, I’m packaging neutral when it comes to the substrate used since I work for a company that sells most every type available. Paper, plastics, hybrids and yes 100% certified compostable products. I just think it is best to allow the markets (consumers) decide which materials are desired. This goes against the thinking of many in the political arena who would rather pick on materials that are deemed easy targets due to customer misconception and internet folklore. One needs to really ask what their motives are. Is it because it’s the will of their constituents or that they want to have some sort of perceived accomplishment? You decide.
March 22nd, 2013
Okay remember how I’ve ranted before that politicians like to tell us what we can and can’t do, what we can and can’t eat and what we should and should not think in the form of bans. It seems that at least one of those crazy bans has been disproved. Specifically Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on foam food packaging. A new study by third party research firm has concluded that a the ban on foam food service for New York City, in which the mayor said would be seamless and not cost anybody anything, would in fact cost $100,000 per year. Conclusions were a foam ban in NYC would have serious economic impact not only to city businesses, but state businesses as well while having little to no effect on waste reductions or other environmental concerns. Job well done mayor.
March 20th, 2013
Let the super thirsty rejoice! A beacon of light has shown through these dark times of goofy governmental bans and food operators of NYC can continue to serve beverages greater than 16 fluid ounces without fear of the soda cops bearing down upon them. A New York Supreme Court Justice has blocked the ban calling it “arbitrary and capricious”. I could not have said it any better.
March 5th, 2013
It seems like every time I turn around there’s yet another municipality or some internet “guru” throwing stones and food packaging. It’s the same old tired blah blah droning going on. “There’s too much of it, it’s toxic, it gave me acne”…the list gets more ridiculous and far fetched with each new post. The problem is, there are not enough people or organizations firing back about the actual TRUTHS and virtues of food packaging. The real experts about food packaging are those companies who actually produce it, and the companies who directly use it, such as food processors and restaurants. Therefore is seems to make sense that we should be the source to talk about why food packaging is in fact, necessary. Here’s a list I came up with, in no particular order of importance.
- It protects our food from damage. Think of your favorite brand of cookies. Now try to picture buying those cookies from a bulk bin like you might buy nuts or granola. Not a very pretty image is it, that is unless you like crumbs. That’s just one example. Without food packaging, I’d wager 90% of what you buy at the supermarket would not be possible.
- It prevents food from spoiling. Again, using the supermarket as an example, think of those wonderful bags or clear containers of cut lettuce. By placing those delicate produce items in packaging that protects it from the outside environment, the shelf life is extended both at the supermarket and when you get the products home. This allows you to consume all the food before it goes bad.
- It educates consumers on what’s actually inside. Allergic to gluten, nuts or wheat? Your food packaging allows for great graphics that will tell you all the pertinent nutritional values needed to make informed decisions before purchasing. Caloric count, ingredients, allergens…you name it and the packaging can advise it.
- Keeps foods at temperature longer for an enjoyable experience. This also goes back to the spoilage issue. You are more apt to throw food away if it is not at the desired temperature, be it hot or cold.
- It simply fits our lifestyle. Statistics show more and more of us order take-out meals, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. Why, because we are busy. More demands on us to do more and be more productive chews up time. It would be very difficult to have a take-out meal without take-out packaging.
My challenge is for you to think of all the positive ways food packaging fits into your life. Then try to picture a day without it.
February 14th, 2013
I tried to stay away from posting on all the bans our elected officials like to impose upon us, but I can’t ignore this one since it’s happening in Genpak’s home state. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, has decided that not only should he ban large soda’s from you, but he’s now going to impose a ban on the vehicle in which you get your drinks. Not only cups, but your hinged containers, soup cups and anything else produced from foamed polystyrene will be banned if he gets his way.
I’m not sure what it is with politicians, that they like to impose their will upon us? Were they picked on as little kids, stood up on their first date or just need to fuel their massive egocentric appetite to reign supreme? I don’t know. But what I do know is, if he is successful and this thing passes, the results will be:
- Your bill for whatever you just ordered will go up in price as “green” alternative packaging does not have the same economies of scale as traditional plastics.
- NYC will trade one type of litter for another. Studies done at municipalities that have banned certain types of plastic in an attempt to reduce litter have found all that has happened is the type of litter has changed from one type of material to another. I’ve no studies to prove this, but knowing a package is “environmentally friendly”, wouldn’t they be even more apt to chuck the hamburger container out the window of their car?
- The higher cost of alternatives will likely force some food operations to reduce their staff (layoffs) or simply close up shop.
- The alternative packaging will still go into a landfill where it will stay for years and years.
- Your taxes will go up. Why? If public schools are forced to move away from their current school tray programs, they’ll be forced to either pay for more expensive trays or buy expensive and costly to run/maintain industrial dishwashers that require a ton of water and chemicals. Who’s going to flip that bill? Taxpayers are.
I could go on and on, but suffice it to say these bans do not work. It is a FAR better solution to let the marketplace decide where this goes simply by the actions of the consumer. Not a politician. If consumers decide they want to eat out of a container that is say, compostable, then so be it. Consumers have never been shy in telling their merchants what they want. After all, it’s their hard earned money that’s being spent and merchants in turn will find a way to get it done. The point is, the marketplace is dictating the terms…not a… well you know.
Please don’t get me wrong here. We fully support the wishes of the marketplace and long ago have offered 100% natural, fully compostable food packaging. In fact, we have many alternative materials that we offer to our customer base that are either compostable, or source reduced. We would just rather let the marketplace decide on the type of packaging used and not a politician.
September 26th, 2012
San Rafael city council passes bill to increase costs, stifle growth and apply undue pressure on 250 local businesses. Inaccuracies are;
- “…inability to recycle polystyrene…”. Polystyrene can and is being recycled. It’s not being done on a very large scale though.
- “…harmful effects on health…”. Foamed polystyrene is FDA compliant for food contact and has been safely used as such for over 40 years.
- “…keep the bay cleaner from garbage left behind…”. How is trading one type of garbage for another a step forward? Litter is litter, no matter what the form. Attack the litter issue by increasing collection sites, institute lids for public garbage cans and stiffen and enforce litter laws.
- “…easy to switch packaging…”. Sure it’s easy enough to find food packaging that is compostable. Heck we sell a bunch of it in from our Harvest Fiber line of products. I just think food operators would rather switch under their own time table and customer preferences rather been told to by their local government.
Boston City Council puts undue pressure on local business with crazy ban. Your cup of coffee will go from $2.00 to $3.00 overnight should this shortsighted ban go into effect. I swear our elected officials are ban happy. I have to wonder if these bureaucrats ever do any homework at all? Citizens of Boston, as your councilman how much extra raw materials (water, electricity etc.) it takes to make an “environmental” cup versus a foam cup. All those extra materials translates into more consumption and higher costs.
A stagnant economy could spell good news for quick service restaurants while fine dining and fast casual suffer.
Consumers want to be green, but are unwilling to pay the premium in many instances.
The Big Apple is apparently too big according to Mayor Bloomberg. To save its citizens from themselves the government of NYC has decided that it must ban beverages over 32 ounces in size. Once again a ban that will negatively effect so many industries (beverage, food service, cup manufacturers etc. etc.) will be put into effect and will have little to no effect on the issue they are trying to address which is obesity. Just like all those municipalities who ban certain types of food packaging thinking it will solve their litter problem only to find they have traded one type of litter for another, all while putting undue economic pressure on small businesses, this one is likely to have no effect on the overall issue at hand. God forbid our elected officials try to do something positive to solve a problem. Why not offer tax incentives for gym memberships or some other type of positive initiative? The part of this ban that baffles me is what is excluded from this ban. Drinks over 32 ounces that contain alcohol are okay. Hmmm, “I’m sorry sir but I can’t sell you that 32 ounce Coke, but hey throw four jiggers of some hard liquor in there and we are good to go!” Yeah makes perfect sense to me.
September 5th, 2012
Good news! The short-sighted state wide foam food packaging ban (SB568) was defeated. It would have resulted in:
- increased menu prices
- stagnating new hiring at foodservice operations
- increasing grocery prices
- the loss of hundreds of manufacturing jobs both in CA and other states
- increased consumption of imported goods from China
- traded one kind of litter for another
The vote was 23 – 41 with 16 abstentions. I always find it interesting when politicians abstain from voting. After all, isn’t that why they are there in the first place? To cast the ballot that their constitutions want? No doubt by abstaining they can save face with their districts and say they did not vote in favor of that job killing bill. Hats off to all those who made their voices heard!
July 24th, 2012
So you’ve mastered making your favorite food. Maybe it’s a special cookie, a homemade chili or a one of a kind pasta salad. There’s no denying it’s delicious. All you have to do is get people to try it and the orders will start flooding in.
That’s the mindset of many people who have dreamed of making a living from selling a food dish or item that has gone over well at parties and events. Maybe even someone has approached them and said, “Hey, you should sell that.”
But can it really be that easy? For the most part, no. There are many more steps and things to think about when turning a favorite dish into a business. Sourcing ingredients, accounting and storage are just a few of these things. But the one that we will talk about here may be the most important when it comes to selling your food: Read the rest of this entry »