On Proposed Mashpee Town Article II (Polysturene Products Ban)
by Mark Lawrence of Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlour
Thursday, October 17th – As many of you know I own Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlour, and just this week learned with the arrival of the Report of the Finance Committee in my mailbox, of the proposed Article II, Polystyrene Products Ban, pertaining to food service packaging and utensils. I am adamantly opposed to this Article, simply because though the intention is a good one the end result is simply going to cause an increase in the price consumers pay for take out foods and have no beneficial effect to the environment.
The Finance Committee writes in the Article “inexpensive, safe alternatives to polystyrene are easily obtained” this is FAR from REALITY, alternative compostable/biodegradable products can cost as much as 60% higher over polystyrene. Polystyrene is not just Styrofoam it is also plastic utensils.
Being environmentally conscious myself and looking at options for packaging, I spent much of the winter doing extensive research on the flow of trash from the Cape and the effects of polystyrene on the environment.
Thinking it would be better to work backwards and see where our trash actually goes. Turns out, all of my trash is sent to the Yarmouth Transfer Station where it is taken by rail to SEAMass in Rochester and incinerated creating energy providing heat and light for neighbouring communities. Mashpee Transfer Station trash either goes to a landfill in Middleboro or if there is more than one trailer it also goes to SEAMass.
Please remember that in 2013 the Town of Mashpee was one of seven Cape town’s that opted out of SEAMass and went with ABC Disposal Service of New Bedford. The contract saved the town a few dollars per ton of trash.
But when they signed the contract, the leaders of the seven towns weren’t expecting that their trash would end up in a landfill. ABC Disposal promised a high-tech facility that would pull out recyclables and create a briquette out of the leftover trash that could be burned like coal. But the plant isn’t finished yet and the company filed for bankruptcy. In the meantime, the trash is going into a landfill in Middleboro.
Therefore, if businesses are FORCED into buying the more expensive biodegradables and compostables they would just literally “go up in smoke” and other than the feel good of BUYING them, and spending more money on them the end result is the same – THEY GOT BURNT!
Biodegradable and compostable products require the land to be turned over and kept moist. Landfills are capped and these more expensive products just sit there and release methane (up to 30% more harmful than carbon dioxide) completely against the purpose of the intention of the product.
Turns out polystyrene foodservice products hold many environmental advantages over alternative types of cups and containers.
The manufacturer of polystyrene foam products does not deplete the ozone layer. They have not been manufactured with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) since 1990.
Polystyrene foam food service products constitute less than 1 percent, both by weight and volume, of our country’s municipal solid waste.
The largest US factory producing foam cups uses landfill gas to run the boilers.
Polystyrene is made from a petroleum by-product – styrene.
Production of a paperboard cup vs a foam cup requires as much as 66% more energy.
Fuel savings, as trucking costs are less as foam is not as heavy as the alternatives.
As polystyrene foam is composed of carbon and hydrogen when properly incinerated all it leaves is carbon dioxide, water and trace amounts of ash.
There are indeed recycling programs for polystyrene foam (recycle #6 – look at the bottom of any foam product), but very few municipalities choose to participate in them.
It has no effect on reforestation as no trees are cut to produce it. The same people that rallied around “Save the Trees” when they pushed for plastic bags instead of paper bags have gone full circle. Are we saving trees or not?
Dart Container has been a tremendous help in my research and I will gladly share all my reference materials to anyone that would like.
As a society, we are going at the wrong end of the problem. We need to address the end of the cycle of single use products. To simply burn them is certainly not the right thing to do!
Sadly until municipalities can create the correct methods to handle biodegradable and compostable products, other than feeling good, it is money not well spent, though well intended.
So, for now, I will be staying with foam and polystyrene utensils and fight to not see this Article passed on Monday. I urge all owners of restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores and anywhere that uses at the very least plastic utensils to speak up and make your voice heard. Our prices will be increasing again next year with the increase in the minimum wage to $12.75, then add the increase this Article would put on us next year when Minimum Wage will be $13.50 – the prices our customers will be forced to pay will add to our challenge to stay as a profitable business.
From day one, 18 years ago, we have recycled 100% of our cardboard, plastic, metal and paper, compost our fruit waste. Use napkins made with 100% recycled fiber. This year we switched from plastic straws to paper ones (even offer metal ones). All of our lighting is now LED.and our thermostat is programmable.
Now I am looking into starting my own polystyrene cup recycling program with assistance from #DartCorporation.
It’s imperative to do our best to save the planet for our children’s children and for many generations to come, we just need to do it sensibly and not in a knee jerk reaction and copy some other towns “cookie cutter” Article.