The Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA) addressed the Oxford City Council Licensing Committee at a meeting in January to lobby for expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam to not be singled out in an upcoming by-law. Martin Kersh, Executive Director of the FPA, who represents manufacturers and distributors of disposable food service packaging, noted that banning foam would simply replace the type of litter being accumulated, rather than reducing it. Instead, he has proposed that the food vendors should be allowed to decide which single-use packaging they want to use for their food and drinks, with the provision that they have the necessary infrastructure in place to dispose of them correctly.
The Council members appreciated this point of view & thus the meeting was a success for manufacturers of packaging and the Council has moved to allow this proposal and to change the wording on the new by-law to say that food service packaging needs to be biodegradable OR recyclable, which would allow the use of EPS to continue in Oxford. This is good news for local businesses whose profit margins would have been eroded if they had been required to replace their current foam products with alternatives that are typically two to five times more costly than foam.
The FPA has offered to work with the Council to make sure that the public are aware of the recyclability of foam and correct disposal methods, through the use of additional labelling. This public awareness campaign will hopefully be implemented across all types of food service packaging, as it is the consumers’ behaviour and habits that are causing the litter problem, not an individual product or material.
The next issue that will need to be tackled is that of a formal foam recycling programme. Oxford Direct Services, the local waste collectors, do not currently have the infrastructure available to recycle foam, but other contractors do and that will be explored by the Oxford City Council Licensing Committee with support from the FPA.