Oxford Council wanted to become the first English Council to ban polystyrene take-away food containers. It claimed the move would cut litter whilst promoting the use of biodegradable packaging and recyclable materials.
But the so called ban was reversed before it was even enforced.
Traders in Oxford had argued they already follow a means of recycling the foam boxes. There are several ways to recycle EPS – it can be recycled into insulation board for use in construction and it can be compacted down and manufactured into coat hangers, picture frames and CD cases.
Another way to recycle whilst extracting value from EPS is to clean burn them to recover the energy and avoid the flow of waste to landfill. EPS waste deposited in the bins of one household in the UK over one year contains enough energy to heat water for 500 baths or to keep the television switched on for 5,000 hours.
Aside from the recyclable credentials, from the outset EPS is made of 98% air, making it one of the lightest packaging materials. This reduces the overall packaging weight and provides savings in fuel consumption — reducing the environmental impact of transporting products.
When EPS is produced it’s classed as a low pollution process as steam is the key ingredient - with the water re-used many times.
EPS also helps to prevent food waste. Its foamed nature protects the food and avoids damage from farm to fork, meaning the food reaches the retailer or consumer in perfect condition.
The carbon footprint of EPS is lower than many other packaging materials in use today.
On hearing about the proposed by-law in Oxford, the Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA) intervened; arguing a ban on EPS would make no difference to litter levels, as the packaging would simply be replaced by another material. The issue of biodegradability was also raised along with the need to view EPS, and all materials, in a whole life-cycle capacity. Councillors accepted that EPS is recyclable.
Although the ban on polystyrene food containers was reversed, Oxford Council did go ahead and introduce a new policy, where NON-recyclable takeaway food containers are to be banned.
In summary, EPS is recyclable and has good environmental credentials.