The City of Chicago is currently reviewing an amendment that would change the type of single-use foodservice items available for use throughout the city. The proposed amendment to Title 7 of the Municipal Code of Chicago would ban the use polystyrene foam, a material that makes up many forms of foodservice products that restaurants and small businesses depend on daily. Polystyrene foam is often mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company. Foam is the preferred material of foodservice items because it’s inexpensive compared to alternatives and provides several amenities that consumers prefer.
Representatives of Dart Container Corporation testified before the Committee on Finance in order to ensure the facts surrounding the use of foam and its impact on the city were correctly interpreted. AnnMarie Treglia, Dart’s Global Manager of Government Affairs and the Environment, led the team during the testimony. Treglia opened her remarks by discrediting portions of the amendment, commenting that, “The statement ‘polystyrene food service products and disposable food service ware have significant adverse impacts on the environment’ is just a broad sweeping statement with no facts presented to back up this claim.” Noting that litter is simply a result of how human’s behave, Treglia went on to comment that banning foam products will not do away with litter issues, but instead replace foam litter with a different type of waste. Treglia confirmed this theory by citing a recent study in San Francisco, CA, where the amount of plastic-coated paper cup litter increased once foam products were banned, simply displacing one type of litter for another.
Treglia also noted that while some may not be educated on the matter, foam is 100% recyclable. She commented: “Dart began recycling post-consumer foam in 1990 before it was the ‘green’ thing to do. Today, Dart has foam drop-off centers at select US and International facilities… In addition, various U.S. cities offer public foam drop-off locations and some even have curbside collection.” One city currently benefiting from a foam recycling program is Highland Park, IL, a suburb of Chicago. Working with the local city council and industry colleagues, Dart developed and implemented a foam recycling program at drop-off sites that were already established. According to Treglia, “This program has been in operation for three years and has been very positive and successful.” Citing the success of the local recycling program makes the case for implementing others of its kind in Chicago as opposed to banning the preferred material.