New York City’s recent decision to ban foam food service products due to curbside recycling obstacles has raised another question: What are other municipalities doing with the material?
According to an online database compiled by foam manufacturer Dart Container, more than 60 communities in California, including Los Angeles and Sacramento, include post-consumer expanded polystyrene (EPS) in their curbside programs. San Antonio also allows the material in curbside bins.
A 2013 study funded by the American Chemistry Council and conducted by Moore Recycling Associates suggested 31 percent of the American population in 2012 had access to foam recycling either curbside or via drop-off locations.
In cementing their decision on EPS, New York City officials said their research showed integrating the material into the curbside infrastructure would be costly and time consuming, and they noted question marks remain when it comes to downstream markets for post-consumer foam.
But Moore Recycling’s CEO, Patty Moore, says not all communities are reaching that same conclusion.
“The research we’ve done shows that EPS can, and is, being recycled in curbside programs,” Moore said. “California is a leader in collecting this material curbside.”
Recycling foam via drop-off locations, meanwhile, is far more widespread in the U.S., Dart’s list shows. Municipalities in 17 states have at least one drop-off location for the material.
In addition to New York City, several other large cities have moved to ban post-consumer EPS, including Portland, Oregon, Washington D.C. and Seattle.