Our Take on San Fran's Styrofoam Ban

September 20, 2016


San Francisco recently passed a ban on styrofoam, or expanded polystyrene (EPS), in the city and will take effect next year. Unlike a similar law which was overturned in New York, San Fran’s ban is expected to be upheld and enacted. It is important to note that the ban doesn’t include shipments coming from outside the city limits (for example, from an online retailer like Amazon), but rather brick-and-mortar retail sales.

The law is meant to curb the waste of single-use drink cups and foam ice chests. Foam used in food packaging for meat and fish will also be phased out. Many common types of EPS are not biodegradable and can harm wildlife who ingest the material. And even though recycled EPS exists, it remains an inferior packaging solution.

The ordinance is the most extensive ban on EPS among major U.S. cities. However, Tim Wilson, President of Ernest Packaging Solutions, is quick to point out that we are playing catch up in the use of styrofoam. “The whole world is trying to ban EPS,” Wilson told The Buzz blog, “The U.S. lags behind Europe, Australia and Japan who have been fighting to reduce the use of EPS for years.”

EPS offers some temperature control properties and minor cushioning support, which is why it is commonly used in food and electronic packaging. However, there are alternatives that offer better protection and temperature control and are much more sustainable. Most of today’s loose fill packing peanuts, which are often mistaken for styrofoam, are biodegradable. Molded wood pulp (commonly seen in items like beverage containers and egg cartons) is another example of a material which offers an alternative to styrofoam.

Molded pulp is nothing fancy, but it is making a comeback in the packaging world. And it’s all due to the need for sustainable packaging solutions. Tim Wilson tell us, “Molded pulp gives better cushioning and support than expanded polystyrene foam. And unlike petroleum-based EPS, the pulp is made of old newspapers and is completely recyclable.”

Watch this video to see how old news is turned into new packaging product:

Wilson continues, “Expanded polystyrene is a cheap solution, but it is not an environmentally friendly solution – or even a great packaging solution from a protection standpoint. I hope that more American cities follow San Francisco’s bold move and eliminate their use of EPS.”

At Ernest Packaging Solutions, we believe sustainable packaging can positively impact your business and your bottom line in addition to other benefits of being green. And we love to work with customers who believe the same. Give us a call to start greenifying your packaging with a company who believes in the power sustainable design can play in helping the world today!