Small businesses in Baltimore, MD, are looking forward to continuing to serve customers and not worry over a potential increase in the cost of doing business in their community. The possibility of a ban on polystyrene foam foodservice items in the form of a city council bill has been postponed due to the economic burden it would place on the local economy, as well as the lack of a truly educated solution to the matter. Polystyrene foam is commonly referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, and makes up several forms of the single-use foodservice items, such as cups and take-out containers, that small businesses depend on daily.
One business owner who is relieved of the decision to postpone the ban until further notice is Ken Mueller, owner of Mueller’s Delicatessen, a 67-year-old establishment in Northeast Baltimore. Mueller notes that his daily carryout customers would be stunned if he had to increase the price of food due to a ban on polystyrene foam, which could put his business in jeopardy. According to Mueller, “We’re small businesses trying to compete with the big guys, so we try to keep our costs down. Why should we be penalized? Let us run our own businesses.” While the ban was originally introduced with the idea of reducing the amount of waste sent to area landfills, the consideration of the economic burden it would cause was not considered.
To get a sense of how much of an increase Mueller is describing, consider this: the foam cup many consumers use for hot beverages costs about 3 cents each, while a paper cup that doesn’t provide the same convenience costs nearly 30 cents. Forcing a ban of this nature on the city of Baltimore could potentially increase the price of products for businesses tenfold, a difference that would inevitably be passed along to the consumer. Many members of the Baltimore City Council also disagree with the ban on polystyrene foam because of the economic strain it would cause. Councilman Pete Welch comments, “I live in a price-sensitive district. A number of my constituents make their decisions based on the price of things… It’s just not a good bill for all the neighborhoods.”
While taking the foam ban off of the table is good for business now, the situation should still be addressed in a responsible way. One solution that would allow small businesses to continue using foam foodservice products, and yet still give city officials the opportunity to eliminate it from area landfills, is to provide a way for consumers to recycle foam. Dart Container Corporation is an organization providing this capability to other cities throughout the U.S. Dart uses cutting-edge technology to process and recycle foam so that it’s usable for manufacturers who incorporate the discarded material into the production of new consumer goods. This process not only removes polystyrene foam waste from landfills, but also develops new economic opportunities within the community.
Source: Baltimore Sun