VANCOUVER — A public opinion survey released this week shows a decision by Vancouver City Council to ban polystyrene foam foodservice packaging is highly unpopular with residents. The vast majority of residents want to continue to use the material and have it picked up at curbside and recycled. A ban will force the entire foodservice sector to switch to paper packaging from foam.
The survey showed support for a ban dropped precipitously from 69 to 26 per cent as respondents were given more facts about the recycling of both foam polystyrene and paper foodservice packaging. This was due in large part to “Strong support” for a ban plummeting from 46 to a low of nine per cent as residents learned foam polystyrene can be recycled, making a ban unnecessary.
“Once they know there is now a recycling technology called de-polymerization that can do this, they feel a ban is unnecessary,” says Joe Hruska, VP of Sustainability at the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA). “This technology breaks down the molecules of polystyrene to their original virgin state so the material can be reused as if brand new to make new food packaging, safety equipment, medical supplies, inks and number of products.”
Residents were also very concerned after learning that paper cups and containers are not compostable or recyclable in Vancouver, and that banning foam polystyrene could lead to a significant triple-digit increase in the amount of paper waste going to landfill.
The industry welcomes the offer by staff in their Single-Use Reduction Strategy to revisit the ban on foam polystyrene if foam can be shown to be recyclable. CPIA believes this review should begin immediately and the ban revisited.
“The survey shows that residents are looking for more sustainable solutions that give them more choice,” adds Craig Foster, sustainability consultant for CPIA in B.C. “Eighty per cent want to see more public education and 78 per cent want the city to start recycling all polystyrene foam foodservice packaging using the new de-polymerization technology.”