The ubiquitous Styrofoam coffee cup will be no more. Foam products are on the way out, and recyclable plastics have replaced them as a better alternative.
To combat rising Styrofoam levels in oceans and landfills, many cities and states have begun implementing bans on Styrofoam containers and other single-use plastics to encourage the use of environmentally friendly packaging.
Colorado, Maine, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Washington D.C. are leading the charge, forbidding restaurants, coffee shops, and grocery stores from using most Styrofoam products—such as cups, bowls, plates, and other containers—or risk facing fines of up to $250.
Disposable food containers are essential for all food carryout and delivery services, so it is crucial to stay up to date on the current and impending bans on Styrofoam containers.
Why Switch from Foam Products to Plastic?
Styrofoam is extremely harmful to the environment for three key reasons:
First, the Styrofoam manufacturing process uses hydrocarbons, which are released into the air and produce a hazardous pollutant that can impair lung function and lead to respiratory illness.
Additionally, it is estimated that Styrofoam takes up about 30% of landfills and creates a large amount of waste in the country—in fact, Americans throw away 25 billion Styrofoam cups a year! While in landfills, expanded polystyrene releases harmful chemicals into the environment that, when consumed by animals or humans, can pass along carcinogens and contaminants.
Lastly, although Styrofoam containers are usually marked as recyclable, most recycling centers across the country do not accept these products.
It is extremely difficult to recycle Styrofoam materials due to the chemical process used to produce it. Because the polymer polystyrene beads have already expanded during production, they cannot simply be repurposed or remolded, as there is no technology or system in place to support this process.
Plastic Container Alternatives to Foam Products
In contrast to Styrofoam, plastic food packaging is not only a more environmentally friendly alternative, but also helps to ensure product freshness and quality in transport, prolongs shelf life, and meets FDA regulations. Some plastics are stronger and chemically resistant, making them better for packaging, while others are safe and high-temperature resistant, making them more suited for direct contact with food.
There are numerous alternatives to using Styrofoam products, including paper products and a variety of plastics, including Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), Polyetheretherketone (PEEK), Acrylic (PMMA), and Polypropylene (PP).
PP is one of the most common and environmentally friendly plastics, and is the plastic most often used in our food packaging products. Sunshine Supply offers a full line of foam-free plastic container products that restaurants, stores, and local drink shops can use for customers.
Why is PP the best plastic container choice?
There are many benefits to using PP for your business’s food containers. The material boasts a high melting point and is lightweight and moldable, yet still high in strength, making it a great FDA food-grade plastic.
PP is also highly customizable, another reason it is so appealing to food and beverage distributors. It can be either opaque or translucent and be matched to any color, and design teams can experiment with different aesthetics to match a company’s branding.
Although PP has a high melting point, one of its main drawbacks is that it is prone to thermal expansion, which limits the material’s high-temperature applications. It is also susceptible to oxidation, UV degradation, and damage from chlorinated solvents in rare cases.
However, PP is still one of the most preferred plastic materials when it comes to food packaging due to its high quality and low cost.
What are the environmental benefits of PP?
If the product benefits weren’t enough, PP is also one of the best choices for environmentally friendly packaging. The EPA classifies PP as a Safer Chemical Ingredient and considers it a safer choice compared to most other plastics.
During the manufacturing process, there are no toxic emissions, toxic waste, fluorocarbons, or halogens. Also, creating PP materials requires fewer natural resources and energy than creating cotton, paper, canvas, and other fabrics.
At the end of a PP product’s life, the item is fully recyclable and generates fewer waste products in disposal. During the recycling process, there are no toxic chemicals released, nor are any toxic gases generated when burned.
Want to Switch from Foam to Plastic?
If your restaurant needs high-quality to-go containers and you want to ditch the foam in favor of plastic, simply reach out to Sunshine! We’re happy to collaborate on the right containers and supplies for your business.