Economic Impact

The foam industry provides thousands of jobs and saves schools, businesses, consumers, and government agencies millions of dollars every year. Polystyrene foam benefits Oregon by offering superior value, increased efficiency, and strong economic solutions across the state.

Foam has an understated value in Oregon. Eliminating foam use would kill jobs by increasing costs on local businesses, but a refocused emphasis on recycling would create more jobs and fuel the economy. Recycled polystyrene is extremely valuable because of its versatility. Once it’s cleaned, ground down, and heated, manufacturers nationwide can use polystyrene for insulation, as the base product of windmill blades, and as a major component of solar paneling.
Foam is 100% recyclable, and banning its production for environmental reasons in favor of more expensive materials is economically irresponsible.

One Portland company, The Recycling Professionals, is finding a unique way to control the foam recycling process. They serve as a distributor of foam cups, plates, and forks, and the price they charge clients includes the pick-up fee of those same products after use. Once the used foam products are returned, The Recycling Professionals process the foam into products like construction blocks.

School districts across the country also rely on foam to keep costs down because a foam tray costs significantly less than a compostable tray. [i] By investing in education instead of cafeteria trays, the state’s schools can better serve their teachers, students, and communities.

Foam recycling programs have saved some schools between 20-40% on material collection fees.[ii]

Furthermore, foam products help restaurants stay in business. Many of the state’s restaurants operate on razor-thin profit margins and foam products offer them an affordable and effective food storage solution. Eliminating foam could cost some restaurant owners up to tens of thousands of dollars per year.

Since the 1990 ban in Portland, restaurants have been forced to waste revenue on more expensive foam alternatives. These funds could be spent on things more worthwhile for restaurant owners, such as improving food service, hiring more employees, and raising wages.
manufacturing plant

Foam is far more economical than alternative materials. Food-grade polystyrene containers are generally 2 to 3 times less expensive than disposable paperboard products and reusable foodservice items. These strong foam containers provide excellent insulation at a cost-effective price and allow hardworking Oregon business owners – already facing higher prices for food, fuel, and everyday products – to save money in a challenging economic climate.

[i] Kelly Puente, Recyclable Foam Trays a Cure for Long Beach Schools’ Headache, PRESS-TELEGRAM, May 19, 2011, available at http://www.presstelegram.com/ci_18100171?source=rv.

[ii] Franklin Associates, Ltd. Final Peer-Reviewed Report: Life Cycle Inventory of Polystyrene Foam, Bleached Paperboard, and Corrugated Paperboard Foodservice Products (Prepared for The Polystyrene Packaging Council, March 2006).