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San Jose Rejects Foam Foodservice Recycling, Bucking California Trend

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- San Jose City Council today rejected a proposal to explore recycling of polystyrene foam foodservice packaging and instead moved to restrict its use by restaurants and other local foodservice operators.

The move is at odds with the trend in California to increase polystyrene foam foodservice recycling, including at curbside. Twenty-two percent of households in California – more than eight million people – can recycle polystyrene foam foodservice cups, plates, bowls, clamshells and other containers at curbside. There also are more than a dozen school districts and at least 15 community drop-off locations in California that recycle polystyrene foam foodservice packaging. Similar programs don't exist for other foodservice and takeout packaging.

During Tuesday's hearing, scores of local business people, including many restaurateurs, objected to the dramatically higher costs and the lower quality of alternatives to foam. They urged Council members not to restrict the only foodservice packaging being recycled in California.

Some Council members proposed exploring the feasibility of adding foam foodservice packaging to area recycling programs, which would remove more packaging from the waste stream and help reduce litter. The Council rejected the recycling proposal and instead directed its staff to draft an ordinance to restrict the use of these products.

If passed by City Council this summer, the proposed restriction would extinguish opportunities for recycling foam foodservice packaging in San Jose.

Plastics makers urged San Jose officials to reconsider. "Restricting polystyrene foam foodservice packaging will not eliminate waste or increase recycling," said Tim Shestek, Senior Director of the American Chemistry Council in Sacramento. "Many people mistakenly believe that alternatives such as paper cups and plates are being recycled. However, there is no commercial recycling of these products.

"Recycling polystyrene foam used for foodservice and other packaging would increase supply of these recycled plastics and would divert more packaging from the waste stream," Shestek continued. "It's already working elsewhere in California – why take a step backward?"

Polystyrene foam foodservice packaging:

  • makes up less than one percent of U.S. solid waste, according to EPA;
  • represents 1.5 percent of litter, according to a 2012 national litter review;
  • uses significantly less energy and water to manufacture than paper alternatives and creates significantly less waste by weight and comparable waste by volume, according to a 2011 life-cycle study; and
  • is two to five times less expensive than alternatives.

For more information on polystyrene foam foodservice products and recycling, please visit: www.plasticfoodservicefacts.org.


The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and safety performance through Responsible Care®, common sense advocacy designed to address major public policy issues, and health and environmental research and product testing. The business of chemistry is a $760 billion enterprise and a key element of the nation's economy. It is the largest exporting sector in the U.S., accounting for 12 percent of U.S. exports. Chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve security and to defend against any threat to the nation's critical infrastructure.

SOURCE American Chemistry Council

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