PLASTIC POLLUTION: Bans vs. Recycling Solutions

Business,Environmentalism & Animal Rights,Regulation

Independent Institute: |

… One need only compare Disneyland, for example, with a
national park or a public beach to see the environmental
benefits of privatization.

EPS (expanded polystyren) producers themselves have little incentive
to invest in recycling technologies, since creating
new EPS is cheaper than recycling it. Foam takeout
packaging is cheaper than most paper alternatives,
making it appealing to food vendors (particularly
small vendors).

Governments that already manage waste disposal have some incentive to try to control
the problem, but they may not be best equipped
to do so, or the most efficient at handling the
problem. As mentioned above, blanket bans of EPS
products in food service can generate economic
and environmental costs, and thus it may not be an
effective solution to pollution.
Private Action

Private recyclers and companies have made progress
in reducing the impact of EPS pollution. Some private
companies are making decisions to move away from
EPS of their own accord. Other private companies
are looking at making recycling more efficient and
more accessible.

Several large retail companies—Dunkin’ Donuts,
Target, McDonald’s, Crate and Barrel
, and others—
have announced or implemented plans to phase out EPS
packaging in favor of paper and more easily recyclable
plastic options. Dunkin’ Donuts says that the shift is
“part of its commitment to serve both people and the
planet responsibly,” which echoes the sentiments of other
companies moving away from EPS.

Starbucks® recently announced a $10 million grant to encourage development
of a new, more environmentally friendly coffee cup.

Larger companies that can afford to shift away from
EPS products to more expensive alternatives may do so
in response to public pressure and in an attempt to be
better corporate citizens. If local governments are intent on
implementing EPS bans, they would do better to focus on
large companies that can afford to make the change, rather
than small, local businesses that get hit hard by EPS bans.

Other private groups are working to advance EPS
recycling efforts. Since most municipal recyclers do not
recycle EPS, most of the material ends up in landfills
or wherever the wind takes it. Some private companies
will pick up used, clean EPS and recycle it for a small
price. Unfortunately, most of those recyclers accept only
uncontaminated EPS and, even then, frequently operate
at a loss. Sedona Recycles, a nonprofit recycler in Sedona,
Arizona, says that recycling EPS costs them $725.85 per

They continue to recycle, using donations, and
try to reduce EPS pollution with every pallet they process …

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