The advantages of community recycling programs are generally well-known to most individuals: they provide an opportunity to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, re-use products that otherwise are at the end of their lifespans, and sometimes even provide an economic incentive. While the conversation specifically regarding the recycling of polystyrene foam products is beginning to shift, discussing these opportunities is not top of mind, as most individuals do not understand the cost-savings and other benefits that recycling foam provides. This is a discussion that the lawmakers and school systems within the state of Oregon will soon be having due to the decision by the state House of Representatives either to remove polystyrene foam lunch trays from public schools by 2021 or implement foam recycling programs.
The bill associated with this decision, which passed the House on April 15, now sits with the state Senate awaiting review. Rejecting this bill will allow school systems throughout the state to implement new recycling efforts, thereby creating educational opportunities, permanently removing waste from local landfills, and allowing schools to keep the cost of operations low. When a foam ban is put in place, organizations are forced to switch to alternatives. Once the alternative product is used and discarded as waste in the absence of a recycling program it simply replaces one type of waste for another. If the goal of Oregon lawmakers is to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, then introducing an effective educational and foam recycling program is the best way to make an impact.
Another concern the state could face if a foam ban were to pass is the increased cost of operations. Without a recycling initiative in place, the lunch trays that school systems will be forced to use will most likely be more expensive than the current foam trays. The Sacramento-based firm MB Public Affairs concluded in a 2013 survey that when faced with a ban, organizations using foam products will be required to pay nearly double for alternatives. For every $1.00 an organization spends on foam items, MB Public Affairs estimates that the organization would be required to spend $1.94 on alternatives. Avoiding a ban on foam products in schools will allow state leaders to keep the costs of operations and school lunches low for their constituents.